Nature, Emulating Terrorist Attack
"They asked us ... using loudspeakers to evacuate the building, but some people went inside again, saying their precious documents, their bank cheques, their entire life was in their shops."
"They went inside to fetch those documents. I felt like they cared about their belongings, cheques and money more than their lives."
"Firefighters went inside to bring them out, and then suddenly the building collapsed."
Masoud Hosseini, Tehran, Iran
Flames issued from the top of the building in central Tehran on 19 January (Reuters)
The construction of the building known as the Plasco building, named after the plastics manufacturing company owned and operated by its builder, was completed in 1962. At the time of its construction it represented the tallest building in Tehran. Its owner was an Iranian Jewish businessman named Habib Elghanian. When the 1979 Islamic Revolution transformed Iran into the Islamic Republic it now is, this man was arrested on orders of the Ayatollahs.
He was tried as a traitor to the country. He was charged among other things, with spying for Israel. And he was subsequently executed by firing squad. One among thousands of Iranians whom the revolutionary Ayatollahs viewed as enemies of their new Shiite Islamism whose solution was to commit them to death as unfit to live. That this building, with its unfortunate history, is the one to have collapsed with such unfortunate loss of life, particularly among first-responders seems eerie.
Stranger still, is the eerie echo of the 9/11 horror that transfixed the world at the deliberate murder of almost three thousand Americans. The difference of course, being that the Tehran high-rise fire and building collapse with its attendant loss of life of firemen and others was an accident waiting to happen. While the monstrous collapse of the World Trade Towers in New York City was the result of two highjacked passenger planes deliberately flown into the towers through an act of terrorism.
"God willing, nothing happened to firefighters who were there", hopefully stated a distraught journalist who was on the scene, witnessing the catastrophe that occurred in Tehran. But of course, we now know that up to 20 firefighters perished when the building collapsed, as they were attempting to put out the fire and to rescue workers inside the building. They were invested in pursuing the courageous work that firefighters invest themselves in.
Firefighters are believed to have entered the building before it tumbled (Twitter)
"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", explained fire brigade spokesman Jalal Malekias of the building well known in Tehran to breach safety standards.There were thirty citations issued by the municipality concerning safety issues which the building's owner appeared to simply slough off, seemingly unconcerned.
The 17-story building was known to present a fire hazard simply through the habitual blocking of its stairwells with fabric stored by the cramped garment workshops that were situated on its upper floors. Tailors commonly cooked their food at the workshops and old kerosene heaters were used to provide warmth. Firefighters were hard at work against the blaze three and a half hours before the collapse occurred.
Firefighters, soldiers and allied emergency responders desperately dug through the debris after the collapse, hoping to find survivors. It had taken seconds for the building to fold in on itself and collapse. First one side collapsing, and then the other, as a thick blanket of dirty smoke rose over the scene, while onlookers wept in desperation for those caught within the collapse.
There were 100 fire engines at the scene and dozens of ambulances, while 70 firefighters had been injured, 23 having to be taken to hospital as the building was being evacuated. In total, 200 firefighters had been working desperately to put out the fire. "I was inside and suddenly I felt the building is shaking and is about to collapse. As we gathered colleagues and got out, a minute later the building collapsed" a shaken firefighter at the scene stated.