Death toll in Iran building collapse rises to at least 38

It is unclear how many people remain unaccounted after the collapse of the tower at the Metropol Building in Abadan two weeks ago.

05 June 2022

The death toll from the collapse of a building in south-western Iran rose to at least 38 on Sunday, state TV reported, as emergency workers pulled another body from the rubble amid fears still that more could be trapped in the wreckage.

It is unclear how many more people remain unaccounted after the collapse of the tower at the Metropol Building, which was still under construction, in Abadan nearly two weeks ago.

Rescuers were still working and families still waiting for word of their loved ones despite promises that the search operation would be finished by now.

Iran Building-Collapse
Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Mokber (2nd right) visits the site of the collapsed tower in Abadan (Iranian Senior Vice-President Office/AP)

The structural building failure in the oil-rich but impoverished Khuzestan province has focused public attention on shoddy construction practices and prompted mass allegations of government corruption and negligence.

Authorities have arrested 13 people as part of a broad probe into the disaster, including Abadan’s mayor, Hossein Hamidpour, who resigned last Friday.

Protesters have gathered in mourning at the collapse site, denouncing top officials and demanding accountability, according to videos widely shared on social media and analysed by the Associated Press.

However, reporting on events in Abadan remains extremely difficult as the threat of arrest looms. Authorities have disrupted internet access, according to experts, restricting people’s ability to share videos and information.

Iran Building Collapse
Debris hangs from the collapsed 10-storey Metropol Building in Abadan in south-western Iran (Hossein Abdollah Asl/Tasnim News Agency/AP)

In an effort to address public mistrust, President Ebrahim Raisi last Friday paid a surprise visit to Abadan, where he surveyed the disaster site and offered personal condolences to the families of victims.

During his trip, businessmen lodged complaints about the scope of corruption in local government, state-run media reported.

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

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

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also touched on events in Abadan during his live televised speech on Saturday – providing further indication of their seriousness.

Iran Building Collapse
A man stands amid the ruins of the collapsed building (Hossein Abdollah Asl/Tasnim News Agency/AP)

In his first speech outside his residence since the coronavirus pandemic struck Iran, he warned of severe consequences for those who violated regulations and may have helped cause the disaster in Abadan.

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

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

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

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