A 17-story Plasco building in downtown Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday, killing at least 50 people, including about 30 firefighters, state media reported.
At least 70 people are believed to be trapped inside the Plasco building, an iconic structure in central Tehran just north of the capital’s sprawling bazaar.
Iran’s state-run Press TV announced the firefighters’ deaths, without giving a source for the information. Local Iranian state television said 30 civilians were injured in the disaster, while the state-run IRNA news agency said 45 firefighters had been injured.
Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours before the collapse. Police tried to keep out shopkeepers and others wanting to rush back in to collect their valuables.
The building came down in a matter of seconds, shown live on state television, which had begun an interview with a journalist at the scene. A side of the building came down first, tumbling perilously close to a firefighter perched on a ladder and spraying water on the blaze.
A thick plume of brown smoke rose over the site after the collapse. Onlookers wailed in grief.
Jalal Maleki, a fire department spokesman, earlier told Iranian state television that 10 firehouses responded to the blaze, which was first reported around 8 am. The Iranian military sent units to help with the disaster, state television reported.
“The building’s caretaker and some firefighters were inside when the building collapsed,” said Ahmad, a shop owner in the building.
Other sources said one reporter and one hotographer also lost their lives, as well. Seventy people have been taken to hospital, according to the latest reports.
“Fire was under control until part of the building collapsed, injecting more oxygen into the space,” a spokesman with Tehran firefighting organization said.
More than 2,000 firefighters also voluntarily announced preparation to join the mission.
Reportedly, a gas tanker has gotten fired, probably to increasing temperature in the area, according to Mizan new agency. Crowds of people have made rescue operation difficult.
More than 200 firefighters were called in to battle the blaze, some trapped inside as the building collapsed.
Initial efforts failed to bring the blaze under control.
Ambulances were around and searches were going on for those trapped inside. Police has cordoned off an area surrounding the site, warning that gas leak may cause more fire.
Embassies of Russia, England, Turkey, and Germany are within a close proximity of the inflicted area. Embassy staff are safe and have been evacuated, according to a security official. 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.
“A friend of mine has a shop there. I keep calling him but there’s no answer. I think he’s been trapped,” said Mohsen, an onlooker.
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.—Agencies