Tehran, 18 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- At least 183 people were killed and some 260 others injured today when a train loaded with petrol, fertilizer, and sulfur derailed, caught fire, and exploded in northeastern Iran.
Local officials say rail cars parked at a nearby station began rolling away, derailed, and then a fire began, drawing firefighters and onlookers to the scene.
Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Vahid Barakchi, a regional official in the Khorassan province, as saying the blast occurred when firefighters and rescue workers were trying to put out the fire. He said five villages were destroyed in the explosion.
The massive blast occurred at a station near the town of Neyshabour, and was heard 75 kilometers away in the provincial capital of Mashhad.
Hassan Hadiani, a spokesman from the governor's office in Nishapur, 20 kilometers from the blast, says some 183 bodies have been recovered and others still may be buried under the rubble of a nearby village.
Hadiani said 260 injured had been taken to hospital and all blazes had now been extinguished in the stricken area.
IRNA said the governor-general of Nishapur was killed in the blast along with the head of the city's electricity board, the fire chief, and a 26-year-old IRNA journalist.