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No Money To Replace Dangerous Stoves That Killed Four Students - Minister

Fire at a school in Zahedan in Southeast Iran left four school girls dead on Tuesday December 18, 2018.

While Iran is mourning the tragic death of four pre-school girls in a classroom blaze, the Islamic Republic's Minister of Education says, with the budget allocated to his department, it will take seven to eight years to replace dangerous oil heaters with safe heating systems.

Iranian state media reported last Tuesday, December 18, three girls immediately died after suffering burns over more than 90% of their bodies in a deadly blaze at an all-girls preschool and elementary school center in Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province; the poorest region in Iran. Another girl was later announced dead on Wednesday, local news outlets reported.

Iranian Education Minister Mohammad Bat'haei has promised to launch an investigation into the tragedy, which he blamed on the school staff's negligence. Meanwhile, a local Prosecutor General said that the school head and a teacher have been placed under arrest to face charges over the deaths.

However, as a rule, rarely such investigations lead to any definitive conclusions.

The tragedy in Zahedan is reminiscent of another deadly blaze on Dec. 5, 2012, at an all-girls elementary school in the village of Shinabad, in the city of Piranshahr, in northwestern province of Kurdestan.

In that blaze, a defective oil stove exploded as it was heating the classroom, immediately killing two girls and burning 26 others.

The survivors, with mutilated faces, were promised to have free access to reconstructive surgery in and outside Iran.

Nevertheless, five years later, the promise has not yet been fulfilled.

As recently as last July, eleven survivors of the Shinabad fire held a protest assembly outside the office of President Hassan Rouhani lamenting that they were fed up with waiting for the authorities to pay for their treatment, five years after the blaze.

Conservative media, opposing Rouhani and his Administration, grabbed the chance to blast the government for neglecting the necessity of replacing faulty oil stoves with safer electric or gas heaters.

Even the government's official newspaper, Iran daily, admitted the problem, quoting an official as saying that 42% of Iranian schools' heating systems are faulty and substandard.

Iran is the world's third producer of natural gas (5.1% of the world's total); which is primarily used for electricity generation or heating.

Furthermore, 18% of the world's natural gas resources are located in Iran.