59 killed after veil causes mosque fire

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The Independent Online

At least 59 people were killed and more than 250 were injured yesterday in a blaze that swept through a mosque in Tehran after a female worshipper's veil was ignited by a kerosene heater.

At least 59 people were killed and more than 250 were injured yesterday in a blaze that swept through a mosque in Tehran after a female worshipper's veil was ignited by a kerosene heater.

About 400 worshippers filled the Arg mosque, which was more crowded than usual because of the Islamic month of Muharram, a holy time for Shia Muslims, Iran's official news agency reported. The mosque can hold 600 people.

Panicked people raced for the doors and smashed windows to escape the blaze, a witness told the Islamic Republic News Agency. Women, who pray separately from men on the second floor, had to race down stairs and through a narrow doorway to exit. Many stumbled and were trampled in the frenzied stampede to escape.

Hospital records showed that 40 of the deaths were women, and most of casualties were also women.

The agency said that the fire started when the veil of a female worshipper caught the flames of a kerosene heater on the upper floor of the mosque. The flames then spread to a thick green cloth that covered the ceiling and walls of the mosque in commemoration of the holy month. The mosque walls were charred, carpets were burnt and religious books, including copies of the Koran, were destroyed.

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