Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani faced angry protests from victims’ families on Sunday when he visited the site of a mine accident that claimed dozens of lives, two weeks ahead of an election.
Local news agencies showed family members shouting at the president and hitting his car as he visited the site in the northern Golestan province, where at least 26 people were killed by an explosion on Wednesday.
“The entire Iranian nation shares the sorrow of families of those killed in the Zemestan Yort mine accident,” Rouhani said according to the government’s website.
“Those responsible and anyone who had a fault in the incident must be found and dealt with accordingly, without any exceptions,” said Rouhani, who is standing for re-election on May 19.
As well as 26 confirmed dead, at least nine more miners were trapped inside after Wednesday’s explosion, but officials say there is little chance they have survived.
The accident is thought to have been caused by concentrated methane gas that was triggered when workers tried to jump-start an engine.
Workers and families are angry over poor safety conditions, but also over delayed wages — a common problem in factories and industrial enterprises across the country due to the struggling economy.
Labour Minister Ali Rabii travelled 1,400 metres deep into the mine earlier, where rescue teams have been trying to unblock the collapsed tunnel.
The president has ordered a taskforce to investigate the causes of the explosion and handle compensation for victims and their families.
“We are all responsible in this incident,” said Rouhani, calling for tighter regulations in the mining sector.