Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Fire at Istanbul apartment block kills 29

ISTANBUL (AFP)A fire that raged from the basement of a 16-storey building in central Istanbul killed at least 29 people Tuesday, with flames and thick smoke billowing for hours despite a massive emergency response.

The fire was contained and rescue efforts had ended by early evening, the city governor’s office said, and eight people were arrested over the blaze that began in a basement where builders had been renovating a nightclub.

The local mayor’s office said in a statement that it had received “no request for authorisation” from the owners of the nightclub or the contractor “regarding any possible renovation of the premises”.

Emergency personnel intervene at the site of a fire in a residential building in Istanbul on April 2, 2024. PHOTO: AFP

“No permit had been issued and no information provided,” the statement added, promising to “follow up on the case and keep the public informed”.

The fire in the Gayreteppe neighbourhood of the city’s Besiktas district began at 12:47 (0947 GMT) and was put out by late afternoon, the office of regional governor Davut Gul said.

An AFP reporter saw three exhausted firefighters sat on the ground with smoke-blackened faces and equipment as they recovered from the effort.

As well as the 29 killed, one hurt person was still being treated in hospital, Gul’s office said.

It was not immediately clear whether the victims died from smoke inhalation or from the flames.

“An investigation has been opened into the fire that occurred in… Istanbul,” Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya posted on X.

TV images from the scene showed large flames roaring from lower-storey windows, spewing a column of thick black smoke that hugged the building’s facade.

All the men working on the site had died, the governor’s office said, without specifying whether they accounted for all of the victims. 

Mounting toll 

“I’ve lost four friends,” local man Fikret Kaya told AFP as firefighters were leaving the scene, but could not say any more.

Not far from him, a woman wearing a black cap was weeping with her head in her hands.

The venue, a popular Gayrettepe nightspot called “Club Masquerade”, boasted several stages and regularly gave live concerts.

Its license was first issued in 1987 and renewed in 2018, governor Gul said, adding that the club was “maintained and renovated”.

But local media reported that the owners had not secured a permit for the work on the 1,500-capacity club, that it lacked emergency exits and that basement columns had been removed, leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes.

Those arrested included the club’s owner and manager, as well as the head of the metalworking company carrying out the renovation work, which was not authorised, according to city officials.

Istanbul’s newly re-elected mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, who rushed to the scene, said “the fire is under control. Let’s hope there are no further victims”, offering his condolences to the relatives of the dead and injured.

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