Fire engulfs factory in Iran’s 2nd industrial incident within hours

Witness says blaze takes place near or at Tabriz thermal power plant, but local media says site is cellophane factory; incident comes after morning blast at another power station

Footage of a fire at a factory near Tabrinz, Iran on July 19, 2020. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Footage of a fire at a factory near Tabrinz, Iran on July 19, 2020. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Footage of a large factory fire in northwest Iran was being widely shared on social media Sunday afternoon, just hours after an explosion was reported at a power station in the central province of Isfahan.

The fire just outside Tabriz appeared to be the latest in a series of unexplained industrial incidents that have been closely watched by Western observers, some of which have been attributed to covert action by Israel or other Western actors.

In the footage of the fire disseminated by a Twitter user, the photographer can be heard saying the incident took place near or in the Tabriz’s Shams Thermal Power Station.

Official state media was not immediately commenting on the fire, but the Iranian Student News Agency reporting on the incident cited a local fire service spokesman who said flammable liquids had spilled inside the cellophane factory, causing the blaze. The spokesman said several squads were working to extinguish the fire and that they had gained control of it.

Earlier Sunday, an explosion was reported at a power station in Isfahan, in what the state news agency IRNA said was the result of faulty equipment and caused no casualties.

A “worn out transformer… at Isfahan’s Islamabad thermal power plant exploded at around 5:00 am today,” the managing director of Isfahan’s electricity company Said Mohseni told the agency.

The facility returned to normal working conditions after about two hours and Isfahan’s power supply was uninterrupted, he added.

“The damaged equipment is also being repaired and replaced,” he said, adding that the facility supplied electricity to the city of Isfahan.

Isfahan is the region in which the Natanz nuclear facility, which was damaged in a July 2 explosion, is located. Israel’s Channel 12 said the affected power station supplies the Natanz facility.

A Middle Eastern intelligence official was quoted earlier this month by The New York Times as saying the fire that badly damaged a building used for producing centrifuges at Natanz was sparked by Israel and was caused by a powerful bomb.

Israeli TV reports, without naming sources, have said the blast destroyed the laboratory in which Iran developed faster centrifuges and set back the Iranian nuclear program by one or two years.

The explosion and fire, however, did not strike Natanz’s underground centrifuge halls where thousands of first-generation gas centrifuges still spin, enriching uranium up to 4.5% purity.

Iran called for action against Israel following the damage to the Natanz facility, and appeared to acknowledge the fire there was not an accident.

The unidentified official who spoke to the New York Times said Israel was not linked to several other recent mysterious fires in Iran over past weeks.

This photo released July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows a building after it was damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

Several of recent disasters have struck sensitive Iranian sites, leading to speculation that they could be part of a sabotage campaign engineered by Israel or another Tehran foe.

Most recently on Saturday there was reportedly an explosion at a pipeline in the Ahvaz region in the south of the country, according to reports in local and social media.

Video shared on social media showed a large fire at the scene. There were no reports of casualties in the incident, and it was not immediately clear what the cause was.

On Wednesday, seven traditional wooden vessels caught fire in a factory in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr.

Other incidents have included gas blasts and explosions in Tehran, as well as in the vicinity of military facilities.

Last month, a large blast was felt in Tehran, apparently caused by an explosion at the Parchin military complex, which defense analysts believe holds an underground tunnel system and missile production facilities.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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