TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Families of four Saudi Arabian children who died of inhaling toxic gas in a hotel during a pilgrimage to Iran’s holy city of Mashhad have demanded that their kids be laid to rest at the shrine of the eighth Shiite Imam in the northwestern Iranian city, an official said.
Following a request from the families of the victims, the bodies of the four children will be buried at the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH), Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister for Security and Law Enforcement Hossein Zolfaghari told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
He said an inquest to ascertain the cause of the deaths revealed that the four children –three infants and a 12-year-old– have died of “acute toxicity” brought on by phosphine gas from insecticide pellets in an upper story in the hotel building, where pilgrims from the Saudi city of Dammam were staying.
The toxic gas poisoned 37 people and took 4 lives, Zolfaghari said, rejecting any intentional act behind the incident. He blamed the deaths on hotel staffer negligence.
Phosphine gas is generated when aluminum phosphide, a highly toxic inorganic compound, is exposed to any source of moisture.
Earlier in the day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said a probe is underway into the deaths.
Iran’s foreign ministry and legal bodies are closely pursuing details to find the reasons behind the incident, she noted.
“Several people have been arrested in this regard, and samples have been collected from the food, air, etc, that may help discover the cause of pilgrims’ deaths,” she added.
In similar remarks on Monday, Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei had said that five individuals are under arrest as part of the ongoing investigations on the issue.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday summoned Iran’s envoy, Hossein Sadeqi, to urge an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.