Rescuers searching for victims of Iran building collapse

Rescuers searching for victims of Iran building collapse

TEHRAN, Iran — Rescue teams worked through the night to try and reach trapped firefighters and other victims after a commercial building collapsed in Iran’s capital and killed at least 30 firefighters.

Scores of workers and dozens of trucks were searching the ruins Friday, a day after a historic high-rise building in the heart of Tehran caught fire and later collapsed.

The building was home to more than 500 garment and clothing workshops, their offices and warehouses, and was full of chemical materials, authorities said. Thursday’s disaster stunned the city and firefighters and others openly wept on the streets, holding each other for support. Dozens of people lined up to donate blood.

“The smoke is a sign of continuation of the fire under the rubble,” said Saeed Sharifizadegan, head of Tehran’s fire department.

Workers were digging several tunnels from buildings next door to reach the basement of the collapsed building. Teams of rescue dogs were at the site, too.

Meanwhile, reports said Behnam Mirzakhani, one of the hospitalized firemen, died from severe injuries in a Tehran hospital.

A total of 84 people were injured with only five of those were hospitalized, said Pirhossein Kolivand, head of the country’s emergency department.

Amir Mohammadi, a retired teacher who lives in a nearby neighbourhood, said he couldn’t sleep the entire night out of worry.

“How can I go to bed, all those who trapped are like my sons,” he said. “Maybe some of them were my students.”

Ghasem Rahmani, 63, who owned a shop in the building, stood at Lalehzar junction, a nearby intersection.

“Until the collapse I was worrying about my belongings,” he said. “Now I am worrying about our sons there. (I) feel guilty.”

Authorities described the building as having a weak structure and it was built more than five decades ago. The fire was the worst in Tehran since a 2005 blaze at a historic mosque killed 59 worshipers and injured nearly 200 others.

Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press

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