News - Middle East
Firefighters reportedly trapped under rubble after building housing a shopping centre and clothing workshops collapses.
Dozens of firefighters are feared dead after a major commercial building in Tehran collapsed following a huge fire, state media reported.
Reports of casualties were conflicting after the collapse on Thursday as some state media outlets that had initially reported dozens of deaths later backtracked.
Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours before the building, just north of the capital's sprawling bazaar, fell. 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 thick plume of brown smoke rose over the site after the collapse.
Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said between 20 to 25 people are believed to have been trapped under the rubble.
Fars news agency reported that a firefighter had sent a text message to a colleague, saying he was alive and trapped with several others at the building's engine room.
Over 200 people injured in the fire were transferred to medical facilities, IRNA news agency reported.
Army Special Forces were deployed to aid the search and rescue efforts.
Fars quoted sources saying some 30 firefighters had "most likely" been killed and that the toll was likely to rise as many people were trapped in the building when it came down.
The 17-storey building, dating from the early 1960s and including a shopping centre and clothing workshops, was among the first high-rises built in the Iranian capital..
Dramatic images showed flames pouring out of the top floors before it crumbled to the ground.
"We had repeatedly warned the building managers about the lack of safety of the building," fire brigade spokesman Jalal Malekias 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.
URGENT: Footage shows the moment of major commercial building collapses in Iran's capital Tehran after hours of severe blaze pic.twitter.com/89GPmRa3GU— Press TV (@PressTV) January 19, 2017
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