Hundreds of residents and office workers escaped unharmed after a raging fire engulfed the 42-storey Polat Towers building in central Istanbul. Debris fell from the upper floors of the tower block but no one was reported hurt on the ground below.

Nur Demirci, an eyewitness at the scene, told Reuters: "Smoke engulfed the whole building in a few seconds and we couldn't go home as debris was falling. We couldn't see anything else other than smoke and the fire that has spread with the wind."

The tower block, which contains flats as well as offices, was immediately evacuated, along with a petrol station and nearby buildings. Hundreds of people were led out by fire crews.

Polat Towers
The flames left one side of the building scorched black.

Firefighter Oskam Evirm said: "The fire started on the ground floor but spread to the top storey. It has been cooled down and an 80-year-old woman was rescued."

Firefighters eventually extinguished the fire, which left one side of the building scorched black. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, governor of Istanbul, said the fire was caused by faulty air-conditioning units at the base of the tower. Turkish state television said strong winds fanned the flames, causing the fire to burn through the building's external insulation.

Polat Towers
Fire-fighters eventually managed to extinguish the blaze at the 152 metre Polat Towers in Istanbul

At 152 metres, Polat Towers is one of the tallest buildings in Europe and houses over 400 luxury apartments.

Adnan Polat, the block's owner, said there had been no casualties.

"All of them left the building in a healthy condition. We also rescued a few pets. Our biggest reward is there was no loss of life. This building has an early warning system."

Istanbul major Kadir Topbas said: "We could have experienced a catastrophe as at least 1,500 people reside in the building."