Bodies of two firefighters recovered after Tehran tower inferno

Bodies of two firefighters recovered after Tehran tower inferno
2 min read
21 January, 2017
The bodies of two firefighters have been recovered from under the rubble of a commercial building in downtown Tehran that collapsed on Thursday after a blaze.
The two were the first to be found in the large pile of debris [AFP]

Rescue teams recovered the bodies of two Iranian firefighters early on Saturday, two days after they were killed while tackling a blaze in Tehran's oldest high-rise.

Footage showed rescuers carrying the body of one of the victims. The two were the first to be found in the large pile of debris.

They were among around 20 firefighters feared to have been killed when the 15-storey Plasco building collapsed on Thursday after a four-hour blaze while emergency services were still evacuating the tower.

One firefighter already died in hospital from his injuries.

Smouldering fires and smoke have complicated the recovery effort as sniffer dogs have combed the rubble.

Tehran's chief pathologist said the degree of the burns had made identification of the dead difficult.

"Even the identity badges they wore on their uniforms were burnt beyond recognition," Massoud Ghadipacha told Iran's ISNA news agency.

Iranian officials have yet to offer definitive casualty figures for the Thursday disaster.

State-run Press TV reported Thursday that 30 firefighters had been killed, without elaborating. Later, authorities said more than 20 firefighters had been killed.

The government announced a day of mourning for the firefighters on Saturday, with the cabinet releasing a statement "praising these great men of sacrifice".

President Hassan Rouhani, who visited the site on Saturday, called for an immediate investigation.

Impromptu displays of solidarity and sadness appeared across Iran, with people leaving flowers and lighting candles outside fire stations.

Iran also lowered the flags at its embassies across the world to half-mast.

The Plasco building was Iran's oldest high-rise and contained a shopping centre and hundreds of clothing suppliers.

When completed in 1962, it was Iran's tallest building, before being dwarfed by the construction boom of later years.

It was built by Habibollah Elghanian, a prominent Iranian-Jewish businessman who was arrested for alleged ties to Israel and executed after the 1979 Islamic revolution.