Rescue operations continued late on Thursday in the Iranian capital Tehran following the collapse of a shopping centre which had caught fire.
The mayor said at least 20 firefighters were killed as they tried to put out the inferno.
Soldiers, sniffer dogs and rescue workers searched the ruins of the 17-storey Plasco building after it crashed down in a giant cloud of dust. Unconfirmed reports suggested around five firemen might be alive, trapped in the debris.
The distress for the firefighters’ colleagues was evident as some cried as they surveyed the rubble. In the morning the whole country had experienced the trauma of watching the collapse live on state television.
Scores of people were injured. Most were taken to hospital and many were later discharged, the reports said.
An official was quoted as blaming an electrical short-circuit for the fire, but there was no official confirmation.
Senior political leaders sent their condolences to the firemen’s families.
The Plasco building was erected in the early 60s by Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian and named after his plastics manufacturing company.