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Death toll in Iran apartment building collapse rises to 41

Still unclear how many remain unaccounted for in building that crumbled two weeks ago in southwest of country

In this photo released on May 27, 2022, ruins of the under-construction 10-story Metropol Building remain after it collapsed last week, in the southwestern city of Abadan, Iran. (Iranian Senior Vice-President Office via AP)
In this photo released on May 27, 2022, ruins of the under-construction 10-story Metropol Building remain after it collapsed last week, in the southwestern city of Abadan, Iran. (Iranian Senior Vice-President Office via AP)

The death toll in the collapse of a building in southwestern Iran rose Monday to at least 41, state media reported, two weeks after the disaster struck.

Ehsun Abbaspour, the governor of the city of Abadan, gave the figure based on an official report, state television said.

It’s unclear how many more people remain unaccounted for in the collapse of the still under-construction tower at the Metropol Building in Abadan two weeks ago. Rescuers were still working and families still waiting for word of their loved ones despite promises the search operation would be finished by now.

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.

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.

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

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks on the anniversary of the death of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, shown in the poster at top center, at his mausoleum in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2022. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

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

The May 23 collapse at the building some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran, has dredged up painful memories of past national disasters.

It followed weeks of sporadic protests roiling in Khuzestan province over skyrocketing prices after the government cut subsidies for several food staples. There have been protests in Abadan over the collapse, which have seen police club demonstrators and fire tear gas.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday blamed foreign “enemies” for the protests in the country while addressing a ceremony in Tehran, marking 33 years since the death of his predecessor and leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Addressing the ceremony at Khomeini’s mausoleum, Khamenei claimed foreigners hoped to harm the country’s regime through the unrest.

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