At least 20 firefighters killed after collapse of landmark high rise building in Tehran

Dramatic video shows 17-storey building in the Iranian capital collapsing after devastating fire broke out on the top floors  

Thursday 19 January 2017 09:58
Comments
Highrise building in Tehran collapses live on TV after becoming englufed in flames

At least 20 firefighters have been killed after responding to a huge fire in a commercial high rise building in Tehran, which caused the structure to collapse.

Iranian state media said it is believed people are still trapped beneath the rubble and that rescue efforts could go on for a further two days.

Soldiers, sniffer dogs and rescue workers were searching the ruins of the Plasco building after it crashed down in a giant cloud of dust. The collapse was shown live on state television and one witness described it as “like a horror movie”.

“At least 20 firefighters who were trapped under rubble have died,” Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said. “They are martyrs. They lost their lives when trying to help people.”

But Tehran Fire Department spokesman Jalal Maleki told the broadcaster: “I cannot confirm the death of around 20 firefighters ... but some of them have been killed. The rescue operation continues.”

Dramatic footage showed the iconic structure collapsing in on itself in just a few seconds, taking out three fire trucks as it fell.

Thick plumes of brown smoke filled the sky and onlookers screamed as the building came down.

At least 88 people, including 45 firefighters were taken to hospital, state media had reported earlier. It did not specify whether those injured were hurt by the blaze or the building’s collapse.

The fire is now under control, fire department spokesperson Jalal Maleki said.

The 50-year-old Plasco, home to a major shopping centre, was one of Tehran’s most recognisable landmarks.

Dozens of anxious shopkeepers and others desperate to save their valuables were kept back by police as firefighters continued to secure the scene.

The tower was built in the early 1960s by Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian and named after his plastics manufacturing company.

At the time of its construction the Plasco was the tallest building on the city’s skyline.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted an official in the Tehran governor’s office as saying an electrical short-circuit had caused the fire, but there was no immediate confirmation of this.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani sent condolences to the families of those killed. Mr Rouhani ordered an investigation and compensation for those affected, state TV reported.

Occupants of the building had been evacuated as firefighters tackled the blaze. State TV said the tenants included garment manufacturers, and it broadcast footage of business owners trying to re-enter the wreckage.

“I have lost everything. What am I going to do now. What should I tell my family?” owner of one of the 400 business units in the building, Mohsen Ghamisi, said.

Tasnim news agency reported that the business units and shops inside the building were not insured because of a lack of required safety measures.

Mr Maleki said: “We had repeatedly warned the building managers about the lack of safety.”

The owner of a nearby grocery store, forced by police to leave the area, said: “It was like a horror movie. The building collapsed in front of me.”

The semi-official Fars news agency said police had cordoned off the nearby British, German and Turkish embassies.

“The embassies are being protected by diplomatic police forces... All the security and safety measures have been taken,” TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in