Iranian media reported Tuesday evening that an explosion from a gas leak in a medical clinic in northern Tehran had killed at least 19 people and injured several others.
The ensuing fire broke out at Sina Athar Medical Center in Iran’s capital and state TV said firefighters battled and extinguished the blaze.
Tehran fire department spokesman Jalal Maleki told the semi-official ISNA news agency that after initially reporting 13 deaths, firefighters had recovered six more who died after the blaze was extinguished around two hours later, raising the toll to 19.
Fifteen of the dead were women, state television said.
Online videos appeared to show explosions at the site as thick black smoke rose from the flames.
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In a TV interview, Maleki said the explosion occurred as gas canisters caught fire in the clinic’s basement.
Some of the victims “were in upper floors in operation rooms, who were either patients being operated on or those with them,” he said. “They unfortunately lost their lives due to the heat and thick smoke.”
Hamidreza Goudarzi, deputy Tehran governor, told state TV a gas leak in the building was the cause of the incident.
People in nearby Tajrish Bazaar rushed to the site, making a rescue operation difficult, authorities said. A nearby hospital went on alert to receive additional injured people if necessary.
At last 10 ambulances were deployed to the site and a nearby hospital went on alert to receive additional injured if necessary. Police blocked off all roads to the site.
Peyman Saberian, head of Tehran’s emergency services, said firefighters were trying to evacuate people from nearby buildings.
State TV reported it was possible there could be more explosions because a number of oxygen capsules remained in the medical center.
Videos on social media showed people gathered outside of the building.
Witness Marjan Haghighi told The Associated Press that police blocked roads to the neighborhood.
WATCH; Firefighters are currently rescuing people trapped in Sina Athar Medical Center where the explosion happened #Tehran
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The incident comes four days after an explosion near a military complex rocked the Iranian capital.
It took place in the Parchin area in the southeast of Tehran due to “leaking gas tanks,” Iran’s defense ministry said on Friday, adding there were no casualties.
Parchin is a site suspected of having hosted conventional explosion tests applicable to nuclear power, which the Islamic Republic denies.
It had come under scrutiny from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in 2015.
Iran had refused the IAEA access to the site because of the nature of its work, but the agency’s then chief, the late Yukiya Amano, paid a visit there.