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Dozens Feared Dead in Iran High Rise Fire

Iranians watch the Plasco building, with smoke rising from its windows, in central Tehran, Iran, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze.

A high-rise building in Iran's capital Tehran collapsed Thursday after being engulfed by flames, killing or injuring dozens of people.

At least 20 firefighters are missing or dead following the collapse, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf told state television.

The fire broke out at the Plasco building, an iconic structure in central Tehran just north of the capital's sprawling bazaar.

Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours before the collapse.Police tried to keep out shopkeepers and others who wanted to rush back in to collect their valuables.

A spokesman for the Tehran Fire Department would not speculate on what caused the blaze.

"For now I can not say what exactly caused the fire.The old and worn out electricity lines and wires inside the building could have potentially caused the fire, but our men are still busy and we can not tell what exactly caused the fire," spokesman Jalal Maleki said

The French news agency reports that the Plasco was the first high-rise and shopping center in Tehran and the city's tallest building when completed in 1962, until it was dwarfed by the construction boom of later years.

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