Fire Breaks Out at Iranian Power Plant, Latest in Series of Incidents

Fire was followed by a chlorine gas leak at a petrochemicals plant injuring dozens, reported state media in what a former official suggests could be an attempted sabotage

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
A view of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, July 2, 2020.
A view of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, July 2, 2020.Credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/ Reuters
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Iranian State media reported Saturday an explosion that led to a fire at one of Iran's biggest electric power stations, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.

A video and photos circulated around social media show the fire that allegedly broke out after "an explosion occurred at one of the power generators," Al Arabiya quoted the head of the local fire department as saying, and added that the explosion is likely to be a result of high temperatures.

The blaze, which affected a transformer in the power station in the city of Ahvaz, was put out by fire fighters and electricity was restored after partial outages, Mostafa Rajabi Mashhadi, a spokesman for state-run power company TAVANIR, told the semi-official news agency Tasnim.

There have been several other incidents at facilities across the country recently.

A chlorine gas leak occurred at a unit of the Karoon petrochemicals plant near the port of Bandar Imam Khomeini on the Gulf on Saturday, injuring dozens, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

"In this incident, 70 members of the personnel who were near the unit suffered slight injuries (due to chlorine inhalation) and were taken to a hospital with the help of rescue workers," the plant's spokesman, Massoud Shabanlou, told ILNA, adding that all but two had been released.

A former official suggested the incident could have been an attempt to sabotage work at the plant, which has been involved in activities that breach an international nuclear deal.

On Thursday, a fire broke out at a building above Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, though officials said it did not affect its centrifuge operation or cause any release of radiation. After the fire, the head of civilian defense threatened that Iran will retaliate against any country that carries out cyber attacks on its nuclear sites.

An article issued on Thursday by state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it stopped short of accusing either directly. But an online video and messages purportedly claiming responsibility for a fire deepened the mystery Friday around the incident.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to address Thursday's incident at a press conference.

That fire came after two other incidents in Iran. Nineteen people were killed on Tuesday in an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of Tehran, which an official said was caused by a gas leak.

On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that the authorities said was caused by a leak in a gas storage facility in an area outside the base.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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