(The blaze at the Plasco building. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA)
The Guardian and other international news outlets report that at least 30 and possibly up to 50 firefighters are trapped and assumed dead beneath the rubble after a high-rise building caught fire and collapsed in Tehran, Iran today.
The 17-storey Plasco building, the capital city’s oldest high-rise, housed 400 businesses including several clothing distributors, which likely contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. Located near the British embassy, the building caught fire about 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, engulfing the upper floors and quickly descending to the bottom levels.
“About 20 to 25 firefighters have been trapped beneath the rubble,” Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, mayor of Tehran said. A spokesperson for the rescue operation put the number of responders missing between 30 and 50, according to the state Irna news agency.
Eshagh Jahangiri, Iran’s first vice-president, visited the scene with other senior officials. “It was shocking and unbelievable,” Jahangiri said on state television. “A number of our people, especially our great firefighters, have been trapped. The government is assisting with help from other forces including the military.”
There have been safety concerns about the Plasco in the past. Eghbal Shkeri, a senior official from Tehran’s city council indicated that previous warnings regarding the building’s safety had been ignored, and said, “Repeated warnings had been given about the building, and its fire control system was very weak.”
According to a research report released by NFPA in April 2016, U.S. fire departments respond to an estimated yearly average of 14,500 reported structure fires in high-rise buildings. The two deadliest high-rise fires in U.S. history were caused by terrorism. The fires and building collapses that occurred when two planes flew into the World Trade Center twin towers in NYC on September 11, 2001 killed 2,666 people, not including the 157 passengers and crew on the two planes; and on April 19, 1995, a truck bomb outside a nine-story federal building in Oklahoma City killed 169 people. During the years 2006‐2015, there were five firefighter deaths in four high‐rise building fires.
Structural collapses are the third leading cause of firefighter fatal injuries in the U.S., with six in 2015 alone (not restricted to high-rise incidents).
To learn more about ensuring occupant and property protection during the time of a fire in a high-rise building, click here.