Collapse of Tehran High-Rise on Fire Kills 30 Firefighters

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -
A collapsed building is seen in Tehran, Iran, Thursday. (Tasnim News Agency/Handout via Reuters)

A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday, killing 30 firefighters who battled the blaze. Iran’s state-run channel said people were believed to be trapped inside the rubble.

Authorities told the state-run IRNA news agency just after the collapse that at least 38 people had been injured at the Plasco building, an iconic structure in central Tehran just north of the capital’s sprawling bazaar.

Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours before the collapse as police kept 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 media, 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. Onlookers wailed in grief.

Jalal Maleki, a fire department spokesman, earlier told Iranian state media that 10 firehouses responded to the blaze, which was first reported around 8 a.m.

The Iranian military sent units to help with the disaster, state media reported.

Several embassies are located near the building. Turkey’s state-run news agency, reporting from Tehran, said the Turkish embassy was evacuated as a precaution, though it sustained no damage in the collapse.

The Plasco building was an iconic presence on the Tehran skyline.

The 17-story tower was built in the early 1960s by Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian and named after his plastics manufacturing company. It was the tallest building in the city at the time of its construction.

Elghanian was tried on charges that included espionage and executed in the months after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current ruling system to power — a move that prompted many members of the country’s long-standing Jewish community to flee.

The tower is attached to a multistory shopping mall featuring a sky-lit atrium and a series of turquoise-colored fountains. It wasn’t immediately clear if the mall was damaged.