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Solidarity with the Families of Victims of the Plasco Fire in Tehran

In the fire that led to the catastrophic collapse of the 1960s Plasco tower in Tehran on January 19th Plasco Photoscores of firefighters lost their lives. Amid questions about the breaches of health and safety regulations and the way the fire engulfed the building, its rapid collapse, and the way the lives of the fire-fighters were put at risk, the state has claimed that the deaths are limited to 25 firefighters. The fire, the cause of which is yet to be determined, illustrated the regime’s disregard for life, especially with regard to those trapped under the rubble of the collapsed building and highlighted the difficult and dangerous working and living conditions of the firefighters.

Following the fire, the women political prisoners in the notorious Evin prison issued a statement and expressed their solidarity with the people of Iran, the firefighters and victims of the incident; and in the evening of 21st January 2017 observed one minute’s silence in their memory (cited in the website of Defenders of Human Rights Center, 22 January 2017). They also let the prison authorities that they were ready to give blood to help the injured and asked for the prison to facilitate this. 

The signatories of the statement are: Samira Yzadi, Mariam Akbari Monfared, Mariam Alangi, Shirin Ershadi, Fahimeh A’rafi, Nasim Bagheri, Elahe Barmaki, Leila Ja’fari, Leila Jama’at, Atena Da’emi, Nadereh Rastgoo, Azita Rafizadeh, Nazanin Zagheri, Nasim Zargaran, Mahvash Sahriari, Roya Saberi, Elham Farahani, Fariba Kamal Abadi, Nooshin Abdolbaghi, Fatemeh Mosana, Narges Mohammadi, Afarin Neisari.

In connection with the Plasco Fire, the solidarity organisation, CODIR, Committee for the Defence of Iranian People’s Rights also issued a statement. It pointed out that this tragedy could have been avoided had health and safety rules been imposed by the authorities and observed.

‘At least thirty firefighters are believed to have been killed in the tragedy, when many were trapped under rubble as part of the rescue mission.  Over 200 people are believed to have been injured in the fire, which spread from the upper floors, but soon engulfed the entire building.

The 56-year-old Plasco, which housed 400 businesses, was built by wealthy millionaire Habibollah Elghanian and was among the most prominent buildings on the Tehran skyline.  After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the building was handed over to the Mostazafan Foundation of the Islamic Republic (Foundation of the Dispossessed).

Today’s events occur three years to the day that a similar inferno in Tehran resulted in the deaths of two female textile workers.  Today’s events once again throw a spotlight onto the woeful disregard for health and safety protocols and building regulations in Iran today.  Such is the scale of this morning’s tragedy that there are calls from many people in Tehran for the resignation of Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

It has been reported that firefighters had continually complained of the lack of attention given by the building’s management to fire safety precautions and protocols.

“We had repeatedly warned the building managers about the lack of safety of the building,” fire brigade spokesman Jalal Malekias said, adding that it even lacked fire extinguishers.

“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,” he said.

The initial reports of this tragedy point to this being one more example of the precarious situation that exists in Iran with regard to basic health and safety practice, building regulations and the proper protection afforded to working people in Iran – in this case, firefighters.

CODIR expressed its condolences to the families saying: “This a tragedy which has resulted in suffering on a huge scale which could have been avoided. Many firefighters, who have to risk their lives regularly to save others, have fallen victim, alongside those working in the building itself, to shoddy practices and poor regulation in Iran.  We know that the Fire Brigades Union in the UK have expressed solidarity with their colleagues and their families at this sad time.  We urge all other trade unionists to do likewise.” (cited from Codir website – 20.01.2017)

MaZanan 03.02.2017

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