Iranian rescue workers are digging tunnels to reach the underground stories of the ageing high-rise that collapsed in downtown Tehran amid ongoing search operations to retrieve those trapped. Plasco Building caught fire in early Thursday and came down only hours later, blockading 25 to 30 people under the detritus.
Saeid Sharif-Zadeh, the chief executive of Iran's Fire Control Organization,
said two tunnels were dug into the first and second stories beneath the
Rescuers, he said, were, however, yet to reach those trapped there. The relief workers were deploying technical equipment and sniffer dogs to locate potential survivors. Barely-above-0°C temperatures stand to complicate the operation.
Late Thursday, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf said as many as 20
firefighters had died during the disaster.
On Friday morning, IRNA quoted a familiar source as saying that as many as 23 firefighters and some four journalists remain buried under the rubble.
Pir-Hossein Koulivand, the head of the capital's Emergency Services, later
announced that one firefighter, who had been rushed to hospital for treatment,
had died of his injuries after several resuscitation efforts failed to sustain
Koulivand also said 84 people had suffered injuries during the collapse, 33 of whom were still hospitalized.
"The relief work is very hard. Removal of debris is going on in all parts of the building but the thick smoke rising from the building is creating serious problems," he said.
He said "it is still not clear how many people are trapped under the rubble and not even one person has been pulled out."
Esmail Najjar, the head of Tehran's crisis management center, also told ISNA
that it was "very unlikely that we will pull anyone out alive from the rubble."
Later on Friday, the Iranian administration declared Saturday a day of national mourning for the victims of the building collapse.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli inspected the site of the fire and collapse early Friday.
He has tasked police forces with preventing citizens from crowding the area as rescue teams operating there are on high alert for possible blasts in the aftermath of the collapse.
As many as 200 firefighters had been deployed to the site to put out the fire.
Plasco Building, located in downtown Tehran, was Iran's oldest high-rise and it was housing 600 production workshops, 400 of which were being used for making shirts.
Material damage from the collapse is estimated to stand at around 15,000 billion rials ($463 million).
Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has issued a message,
addressing the situation. Iran's President has ordered expedient handling of the
disaster, while First Vice President Is'haq Jahangiri has attended the scene.
Foreign governments, including those of Syria, Pakistan, Turkey and Britain, have condoled with the Islamic Republic over the incident.
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