Death toll in building collapse in Iran rises to at least 38

The death toll in the catastrophic collapse of a tower block in southwestern Iran rose to at least 38 on Sunday, state television reported, as rescuers pulled another body from the rubble, fearing that more people are still trapped in the destruction.

It is unclear how many people are still missing in the collapse of the still-under-construction Metropol Building in Abadan nearly two weeks ago. Rescuers were still working and families were still awaiting news from loved ones despite promises that the search operation would now be over.

The structural failure of construction in the oil-rich but impoverished province of Khuzestan has drawn public attention to shoddy building practices and sparked massive allegations of government corruption and negligence. Authorities have arrested 13 people as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the disaster, including Abadan Mayor Hossein Hamidpour, who resigned last Friday.

Protesters gathered in mourning at the site of the collapse, denouncing senior officials and demanding accountability, according to videos shared widely on social media and analyzed by The Associated Press. However, reporting on events in Abadan remains extremely difficult as the threat of arrest looms. Authorities have shut down internet access, limiting people’s ability to share videos and information, experts say.

To dispel public mistrust, President Ebrahim Raisi paid a surprise visit to Abadan last Friday, where he inspected the disaster site and offered his personal condolences to the families of the victims. During his trip, businessmen lodged complaints about the extent of corruption in local government, state media reported.

Raisi promised that the government would “not hesitate to deal with violators” and “monitor construction more closely, especially high-rise buildings”.

“Authors should know that the passage of time will not absolve them of responsibility and accountability,” he said.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also addressed the events in Abadan during his live televised address on Saturday, providing a further indication of their gravity.

In his first speech outside his residence since the pandemic hit Iran, Khamenei warned of severe consequences for those who broke regulations and could have helped bring about the disaster in Abadan.

“Those responsible must be brought to justice, their punishment must serve as a lesson to others, and similar incidents in the future must be avoided,” he said.

Khamenei also blamed the recent outbreak of protests in the restive Khuzestan province on Iran’s “enemies”, including “treacherous Iranians” abroad, who he said are trying to harm the country’s interests by ” psychological warfare and online campaigns”.

Reza Pahlavi, in exile in the United States, the eldest son of Iran’s deposed monarch before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, seized on reports of growing anger in Abadan last week to call for the creation of a “front united against the Islamic Republic”. The death toll in the catastrophic collapse of a tower block in southwestern Iran rose to at least 38 on Sunday, state television reported, as rescuers pulled another body from the rubble, fearing that more people are still trapped in the destruction.

It is unclear how many people are still missing in the collapse of the still-under-construction Metropol Building in Abadan nearly two weeks ago. Rescuers were still working and families were still awaiting news from loved ones despite promises that the search operation would now be over.

The structural failure of construction in the oil-rich but impoverished province of Khuzestan has drawn public attention to shoddy building practices and sparked massive allegations of government corruption and negligence. Authorities have arrested 13 people as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the disaster, including Abadan Mayor Hossein Hamidpour, who resigned last Friday.

Protesters gathered in mourning at the site of the collapse, denouncing senior officials and demanding accountability, according to videos shared widely on social media and analyzed by The Associated Press. However, reporting on events in Abadan remains extremely difficult as the threat of arrest looms. Authorities have shut down internet access, limiting people’s ability to share videos and information, experts say.

To dispel public mistrust, President Ebrahim Raisi paid a surprise visit to Abadan last Friday, where he inspected the disaster site and offered his personal condolences to the families of the victims. During his trip, businessmen lodged complaints about the extent of corruption in local government, state media reported.

Raisi promised that the government would “not hesitate to deal with violators” and “monitor construction more closely, especially high-rise buildings”.

“Authors should know that the passage of time will not absolve them of responsibility and accountability,” he said.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also addressed the events in Abadan during his live televised address on Saturday, providing a further indication of their gravity.

In his first speech outside his residence since the pandemic hit Iran, Khamenei warned of severe consequences for those who broke regulations and could have helped bring about the disaster in Abadan.

“Those responsible must be brought to justice, their punishment must serve as a lesson to others, and similar incidents in the future must be avoided,” he said.

Khamenei also blamed the recent outbreak of protests in the restive Khuzestan province on Iran’s “enemies”, including “treacherous Iranians” abroad, who he said are trying to harm the country’s interests by ” psychological warfare and online campaigns”.

Reza Pahlavi, in exile in the United States, the eldest son of Iran’s deposed monarch before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, seized on reports of growing anger in Abadan last week to call for the creation of a “front united against the Islamic Republic”.

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