A search is continuing for dozens of firefighters missing after the collapse of a blazing 17-story building in Iran’s capital Tehran.
Rescuers are digging tunnels through the rubble of the Plasco Building and using sniffer dogs to find bodies and any survivors.
They are working in freezing temperatures but their efforts are being hampered by the fact that much of the debris is still hot from the fire.
“The rescue work is very difficult, debris is being cleared all over the site but the thick smoke is still causing big problems for rescuers,” Tehran’s emergency services director Pir Hossein Koolivand said.
“These firefighters prevented a disaster. Hundreds of people could have been killed if they had not returned to the building,” Tehran Fire Department spokesman Jalal Maleki said.
“The chance of rescuing anyone alive is almost zero.”
On Thursday the city’s mayor said at least 20 firefighters died, buried as they were trying to put out a fire that engulfed the commercial high-rise on Thursday.
On Friday afternoon, Iranian state TV quoted officials as saying there were at least 25 people unaccounted for.
“Police have received missing reports of 25 people. We urge people to report if any of their family members that worked in the Plasco building is missing,” a police official told the broadcaster.
Local media said the final toll could include journalists and some of those working in the building who had tried to get back in to recover their property. More than 80 people were reported to have been injured in the collapse.
Iran is in mourning with vigils held throughout the country. The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke of his “deep sorrow” after the tragedy, and praised the “courage and sacrifice of firefighters”.
Officials say around 200 firefighters from 10 fire stations had been sent to the blaze. They had battled it for around three hours before the collapse.
The Plasco Building housed hundreds of clothing workshops as well as a shopping centres.
The cause of the fire is not yet unknown, but speculation has centred on the structure’s old and poorly maintained electrical wiring.
The building’s managers had ignored repeated warnings about poor safety standards and the building’s weak structure, Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said on Thursday.
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