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Iran's oldest high-rise tower collapses in fire

The 17-story Plasco building in central Tehran has collapsed after a fire engulfed its top floors. Although the building was evacuated, dozens of emergency responders are feared trapped under the rubble.

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Tehran high-rise collapses on firefighters

Dozens of firefighters were feared trapped and many killed after one of Tehran's oldest high-rises collapsed following a blaze on Thursday morning.

Iranian authorities did not confirm the number of casualties, as is common in unfolding disasters, but state-run broadcaster Press TV announced at least 30 firefighters had died in the accident. 

State media reported 30 civilians and 45 firefighters were injured in the accident. Reports suggested that most of those hospitalized have already been discharged. 

The collapse was captured live on state-run television as they filmed an interview outside the tower.

"We had repeatedly warned the building managers about the lack of safety of the building," fire brigade spokesman Jalal Malekias said. "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."

Once the side of the Plasco building began crumbling, the rest quickly collapsed with it. Seconds later, a thick plume of smoke rose over the site where one of Tehran's most iconic towers had stood.

Masoumeh Kazemi, whose brother and two sons worked in the garment workshops witnessed the collapse.

"I do not know where they are now," Kazemi said, crying.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported the building had been evacuated following the blaze.

Collapsed Plasco building is seen after it was engulfed by fire (picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency/F. Bahrami)

The collapse was captured live on state-run television

The building was attached to a shopping center and several clothing workshops occupied its floors.

The Plasco was among Tehran's first high-rises and was the city's tallest building when it was finished in 1962, although it was later dwarfed by a construction boom.

The building was built by Habibollah Elghanian, a prominent Iranian-Jewish businessman who was later arrested for ties to Israel and sentenced to death following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. His execution prompted many members of Iran's Jewish community to flee the country. 

dm,aw/rt (AP, AFP)

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