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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Two Hundred People Killed in Iran
Aired February 18, 2004 - 05:34 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And we're just getting pictures in now from Iran. We were telling you earlier about a huge explosion on a train line. Two hundred people have been killed.
On the phone once again is Matthew Chance -- Matthew, can you tell us more about this accident?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, we're slowly building up a picture of what exactly happened to cause this train disaster of quite big proportions. You can see these pictures that have come into us within the last few minutes. An enormous explosion ripping through a populated area, the result of a train, a cargo train loaded with flammable materials like petrol and sulfur and other materials that apparently came uncoupled from the main body of the train, sort of went on a runaway thing and eventually careened at high speed off the tracks into a populated area.
The majority of the killed and injured, though -- and we have at this point 200 people confirmed dead and at least 350 people injured -- the majority of those casualties being cause by villagers, onlookers, rescue workers rushing to the scene just ahead of a kind of secondary explosion that really ripped through the entire area, an enormous blast, according to witnesses, that could be heard some 50 miles away from the actual scene of the accident.
Just to give you a better indication of how big that blast was, at Tehran University, its seismological department is recording hearing at exactly the same time, measuring a tremor coming from the same area, register 3.6 on the scale of magnitude. So it was an enormous explosion caused by these inflammable materials. And that has caused a great deal of casualties and damage, as well -- Carol.
COSTELLO: And, Matthew, it's amazing we're getting any pictures at all out of Iran. It's amazing that you're even there able to report to us via video phone.
The elections are upcoming in Iran. Might this explosion affect the number of people going to the polls?
CHANCE: Well, there are no indications of that at the moment. The infrastructure in this country is somewhat decrepit. A lot of people in this country are very concerned about it. But at the same time, this crash will be seen at the moment of -- will be seen as an accident. It's not likely to be a politicized.
The elections are upcoming. The vote will be held for the parliament here on Friday. There's a great deal of voter apathy amongst the ordinary Iranians. The hardline conservatives of this country have basically managed to, through exclusively or through encouraging boycotts, exclude the majority of the reformist candidates from taking part. As a result, not many people are very enthusiastic here about going to the polls -- Carol.
COSTELLO: And just a question that might be of interest to our viewers -- are you able to move around freely in Iran?
CHANCE: Well, certainly the situation here in terms of freedom of movement, freedom of speech is a great deal better than it was during the harshest days of the Islamic Republic, the Islamic Revolution. But at the same time, there are controls placed on us. We have to inform authorities about where we intend to shoot video for our television reporting, who we intend to interview and things like that.
And not everyone here, in fact, very few people are prepared to speak absolutely openly on camera, fearing that there may be repercussions from the authorities. Indeed, this is one of the big issues for many of the people who have voted over several years now for reformist politicians to undertake economic reforms and social reforms, as well, to make them more able to live a sort of life of freedom, to be able to choose what kind of music they listen to, what kind of clothes they wear and who they speak to.
This is one of the main issues that have faced the electorate in previous elections. This time that's not an option for them -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Matthew Chance live from Tehran, Iran this morning.
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