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Iran says dozens injured in chemical factory explosion

Leak in ammonium tank said to cause blast; separately, Iranian president accepts resignation of labor minister amid protests

Illustrative: Aftermath of an explosion in an oxygen factory in town of Bagher Shahr, south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. (Mehdi Khanlari/Fars News Agency via AP)
Illustrative: Aftermath of an explosion in an oxygen factory in town of Bagher Shahr, south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. (Mehdi Khanlari/Fars News Agency via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An explosion at a chemical factory in southern Iran injured scores of people, most of them lightly, the country’s state TV reported Tuesday.

The report said a leak from an ammonium tank caused the blast on Monday evening in the southern city of Firouzabad in Fars province, located about 770 kilometers (480 miles) south of the capital, Tehran. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the blaze, the report added.

According to the chief of the provincial health department, Vahid Hosseini, out of 133 injured who were taken to local hospitals, mostly factory workers, 114 were later released after treatment.

Authorities on Tuesday reopened a nearby major road that they had closed after the explosion. The factory went online in 2020.

Iran occasionally reports incidents of fires or explosions at industrial sites affecting the country’s infrastructure that are mainly blamed on technical failures. Years of economic sanctions by the West have blocked Iran’s access to original spare parts and new equipment.

Sensitive military and nuclear sites in Iran have also been the target of attacks over the past years, which Iran has blamed on Israel.

In February, a fire broke out at a warehouse full of engine oil and flammable materials at a base belonging to Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in the western province of Kemranshah, damaging a shed but causing no casualties. A day earlier, unconfirmed reports proliferated online about several explosions heard in northern Kermanshah, a strategic location in Iran with various missile and military sites.

The reports come as Iran remains on edge about its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Negotiations in Vienna to revive the accord have stalled for months.

The 2015 deal that granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program collapsed four years ago when former president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the accord and re-imposed crushing sanctions.

In a separate development, Iran’s government spokesman, Ali Bahadori Jahromi, said Tuesday that President Ebrahim Raisi had accepted the resignation of the country’s labor minister, following weeks of protests by retirees.

Illustrative: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a joint news briefing with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The resignation by Hojjatollah Abdolmaleki on Monday was the first for the government since hardline Raisi took office less than a year ago. Raisi has three months to propose a new minister to the parliament for approval.

Abdolmaleki said he resigned to keep the “harmony” of the cabinet but would continue on as an adviser to the president. Mohamad Hadi Zahdivafa was named as caretaker of the labor ministry.

Though the labor ministry said pensions had increased by up to 57% this year, many protesters say most retirees have seen only a 10% increase.

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