ANKARA , 19 Feb 2004 (IRIN) - The Iranian authorities are not seeking international assistance after a chemical train blast in the northeastern city of Neyshabur killed almost 300 people and injured hundreds more, an official said, adding that the situation was now under control.
"At this point no international assistance is sought and the Iranian Red Crescent Society [IRCS] is providing assistance [to the affected people]," Hossein Sharifara, head of the international communication and reporting unit at the international affairs department of the IRCS, told IRIN from the capital, Tehran, on Thursday. He added that the situation was under control, with an IRCS assessment team continuing its work on the ground.
His comments came the day after a train carrying sulphur, petrol and fertiliser derailed and exploded in Neyshabur, a city in northern Khorasan province, killing at least 295 people and injuring 460 others, according to the IRCS.
Sharifara warned that the death toll could rise given the number of seriously injured people.
It was reported on Wednesday that the local governor, mayor and fire chief, as well as many of the fire and rescue workers who had responded to the incident, were among the dead.
The devastating blast badly damaged nearby villages, affecting some 380 people.
Following the incident, the IRCS branch in Khorasan province mobilised its relief teams to assist those affected by the accident, the IRCS said in a statement. "A team consisting of 200 medical doctors, relief workers and other staff is working on the spot, fully equipped with 13 ambulances and some food and non-food items," Sharifara said, adding that the survivors of the disaster were now being provided with necessary relief items.
He said blood donations were not a serious issue at the moment.
Meanwhile, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Wednesday that the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had pledged the world body's help in mitigating the disaster. Conveying the Secretary-General's condolences and deepest sympathy to the Iranian government and the victims of the disaster, the spokesman said the UN "stands ready to assist those affected by the tragedy".
But according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of Thursday afternoon no call for assistance had been made. "We haven't received any request for international assistance," Elizabeth Byrs, a press officer for OCHA, told IRIN from Geneva.
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