Fire Causes Severe Damage to Telecom at the Center of Cuba

Santa Clara, Cuba, Jun 25 (Prensa Latina) A fire reported in one of the venues of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) in this central city causes today severe damages to the coverage of cell phones on the island.

According to a press release issued by the entity, the incident occurred in a technological site of the Telecommunications Center of Villa Clara, which provokes serious damage to the cellular network in the west and center of the country.

The provinces of Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus, in the center, as well as the western Pinar del Rio remain totally without cell coverage, ETECSA reported.

In addition, the number of services for mobile phones that begin with 54, 55 and 56 from any region of the country can be affected, according to the telecom company's statement.

Local radio reports point out that the source of the fire has not yet been clarified, which occurred in one of the most central buildings in Santa Clara, the capital of Villa Clara province, some 250 kilometers east of Havana.

At this moment, the causes are being identified and the contingency measures are taken, according to the authorities.

ETECSA will continue to inform the population through the mass media and the usual channels of information, as well as telephones 118 and 52642266, the company points out.

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Germany: 25 People Injured in Explosion

German police officials are reporting that at least 25 people have been injured after an explosion ripped through a building in the city of Wuppertal.

"It can currently not be ruled out that there are still other people in the building. The rescue efforts are ongoing," the police release said.

Police reports say the area where the explosion took place has been evacuated, however, the cause of the blast remains unknown and is being investigated.

Fires broke out in several sections of the housing unit resulting in the structure collapsing which made it difficult for firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

Emergency services were tasked with attempting to stabilize the building to prevent it from falling down. Several persons managed to escape the ill-fated structure without aid while others were assisted by rescue service.

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Cuba helps put out fire at U.S. Guantanamo naval base: authority

Units from the Cuban army helped put out a fire which broke out last week on the perimeter of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in the southeast of the island, local media reported Wednesday.

The official daily Granma quoted officials as saying that Cuba provided personnel, vehicles and a helicopter that dropped water from the air to extinguish the flames.

The situation, which saw the evacuation of a part of the American personnel, was brought under control on Feb. 22, despite the "logistical and practical complications" due to the "illegal" U.S. occupation of Cuban territory.

"In recent years, a level of communication has been maintained between Cuban and American authorities for emergency situations on the Naval Base," wrote Granma.

This facility was opened in 1903 and constitutes the oldest U.S. military base on foreign soil.

Cuba has repeatedly demanded the return of this territory, considering it an illegal occupation, where Washington has maintained a prison since 2002.

Despite pressure to close it, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 30 to maintain the prison open.

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Iran shocked by deadly fire, collapse of Tehran high-rise

TEHRAN, Iran — A historic high-rise building in the heart of Iran’s capital caught fire and later collapsed Thursday, killing at least 30 firefighters and leaving their stunned colleagues and bystanders weeping in the streets.

The disaster at the 17-story Plasco building, inadvertently shown live on state television, came after authorities said they repeatedly warned tenants about blocking stairwells with fabric from cramped garment workshops on its upper floors.

Firefighters, soldiers and other emergency responders dug through the debris into the night, looking for survivors. While it was not clear how many people were in the steel-and-concrete building, witnesses said many had slipped through a police cordon while the fire burned to go back inside for their belongings.

 
“They asked us … using loudspeakers to evacuate the building, but some people went inside again, saying their precious documents, their bank checks, their entire life was in their shops,” said witness Masoud Hosseini. “They went inside to fetch those documents. I felt like they cared about their belongings, checks and money more than their lives.
 

“Firefighters went inside to bring them out, and then suddenly the building collapsed,” Hosseini said.

Iranian authorities did not immediately release definitive casualty figures, which is common in unfolding disasters.

Iran’s state-run Press TV announced the firefighters’ deaths, without giving a source for the information. Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said more than 20 bodies of firefighters had been recovered by Thursday night.

Local state television said 30 civilians were injured, while the state-run IRNA news agency said 45 firefighters had been injured.

Firefighters began battling the blaze around 8 a.m., some 3 1/2 hours before the collapse. The fire appeared to be the most intense on the upper floors, the site of workshops where tailors cooked for themselves and used old kerosene heaters for warmth.

The building came down in seconds, shown live on state television , which had begun an interview with a journalist at the scene. One side collapsed first, tumbling perilously close to a firefighter perched on a ladder and spraying water on the blaze.

A thick plume of brown smoke rose over the site afterward, and onlookers wailed in grief.

“God willing, nothing happened to firefighters who were there,” the journalist said, then began crying.

Watching the disaster unfold was Masoumeh Kazemi, who said she rushed to the building because her two sons and a brother worked in the garment workshops on the upper floors.

“I do not know where they are now,” Kazemi said, crying.

In a nearby intersection, Abbas Nikkhoo stood with tears in his eyes.

“My nephew was working in a workshop there,” he said. “He has been living with me since moving to Tehran last year from the north of the country in hopes of finding a job.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed sorrow over the fire in a statement and praised the courage and sacrifice of the firefighters.

President Hassan Rouhani ordered Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to investigate the disaster, IRNA reported. Rouhani also ordered the ministry to ensure the injured were cared for and immediately compensate those affected by the disaster. Rouhani, whose administration struck the nuclear deal with world powers, will probably be standing for re-election in May.

The cause of the blaze wasn’t immediately known. However, fire department spokesman Jalal Maleki said authorities had visited the building often to warn tenants about conditions there.

“Everyone stacked up goods outside their shops and in the staircases and corridors,” Maleki said. “We warned them many times, but they wouldn’t listen.”

In the hours after the collapse, authorities also described the building as having a “weak structure,” without elaborating.

Another fire broke out later Thursday at a building next to the collapsed tower, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Firefighters worked into the night to extinguish it.

The Plasco building was an iconic presence on Tehran’s skyline, one of the first to rise against the backdrop of the snowcapped Mount Damavand. Opened in 1962, it was the first privately owned tower to be built during the era of the U.S.-backed shah, when oil money fueled the capital’s rapid development.

The tower, the tallest in Tehran at the time and just north of the sprawling Grand Bazaar, got its name from the plastics manufacturing company owned by its builder, Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the shah, Iran’s new clerical rulers had Elghanian tried on charges that included spying for Israel. He was executed by firing squad — an outcome that prompted many of the remaining members of the country’s longstanding Jewish community to flee.

The state-controlled Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation took ownership of the building. The foundation, which has ties to the powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, made no immediate statement about the collapse.

The fire was the worst in Tehran since a 2005 blaze at a historic mosque killed 59 worshippers and injured nearly 200 others.

Thursday’s disaster stunned the city. Firefighters openly wept on the streets, holding each other for support. Dozens of people lined up to donate blood.

“It is a humanitarian duty,” said Gholamreza Heidari, a university student. “It is nothing compared to the dedication that our firefighters showed in rescuing people.”

 
 
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2 injured, more than 1,000 evacuated after fire in Mecca

More than 1,000 pilgrims have been evacuated and two have been injured during a fire at a hotel in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The incident occurred just six days after a deadly crane collapse at the pilgrimage site.
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