Over 50 reported dead after Iran's oldest high-rise building collapses in fire
BEHROUZ MEHRI (AFP/File)
Over 50 people were killed and dozens more feared trapped after Iran's oldest high-rise, the 15-storey Plasco building in downtown Tehran, collapsed live on television on Thursday following a fire, state media reported.
State television said 200 firefighters had been called to the scene and 38 had already been injured battling the blaze before it fell.
"So far, more than 20 of our colleagues in the fire brigade have lost their lives rescuing others," Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf told state television.
The building, dating from the early 1960s and including a shopping center and clothing workshops, had been evacuated after the fire broke out early on Thursday.
But state television said "tens" of firefighters may have been inside when it collapsed.
Dramatic images showed flames pouring out of the top floors before it crumbled to the ground.
The steel skeleton of the building could be seen bending down to the ground as around 100 fire engines and dozens of ambulances surrounded the area.
Fire brigade spokesman Jalal Malekias said the building was known to breach safety standards.
"We had repeatedly warned the building managers about the lack of safety of the building," he said, adding that it lacked fire extinguishers.
"Even in the stairwells, a lot of clothing is stored and this is against safety standards. The managers didn't pay attention to the warnings," he said.
Police evacuated the area around the building, fearing secondary explosions caused by gas leaks, and worked to clear crowds that were blocking access for rescue services.
The Plasco building was the first high-rise and shopping center in Tehran and was the city's tallest building when it was finished in 1962, before being dwarfed by the construction boom of later years.
It was built by Habibollah Elghanian, a prominent Iranian-Jewish businessman who was arrested for ties to Israel and sentenced to death and executed after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The fire is thought to have begun on the ninth floor and spread quickly to workshops above.
Firefighters were initially able to bring it under control but it quickly flared up and the building fell four hours after the fire had started, at around 11:30 am (0800 GMT).
(Staff with agencies)
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