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Hundreds protest in Iran as death toll from building collapse rises

‘Death to incompetent officials,’ demonstrators in Abadan chant after at least 24 killed in collapse of apartment tower that is being built

Iranians gather at the site of a 10-story building that collapsed in the southwestern city of Abadan on May 24, 2022. (Tasnim News/AFP)
Iranians gather at the site of a 10-story building that collapsed in the southwestern city of Abadan on May 24, 2022. (Tasnim News/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Hundreds of people took to the streets in southwestern Iran demanding justice after an apartment collapse killed 24 people, news outlets in the Islamic Republic said on Friday.

A large section of the 10-story Metropol building that was under construction in the city of Abadan, in Khuzestan province, crumbled on Monday, causing one of Iran’s deadliest such disasters in years.

Images published by Fars news agency showed hundreds of residents marching along Abadan’s streets on Thursday night, mourning those who lost their lives by banging on traditional drums and hitting cymbals.

Some shouted “Death to incompetent officials” and hailed the “Martyrs of Metropol,” Fars said.

People also took to the streets of Khorramshahr city, in the same province, expressing their sympathy with the families of those who died and calling for “a decisive and serious” trial of those responsible, it added.

Similar protests were held on Wednesday night in Abadan, state TV had reported.

More than four days after the apartment tower’s collapse, rescue teams were still recovering bodies from under slabs of cement.

A video posted on Tasnim news agency’s website on Friday showed rescuers carrying a gurney with a body wrapped in a black bag.

Abadan governor Ehsan Abbaspour, cited by ISNA news agency, said the number of people killed in the disaster stood at 24, up from 19 previously.

Officials said 37 people were also injured, although most have since been discharged from hospital.

It remains unknown how many people may still be trapped under the rubble.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had called for perpetrators to be prosecuted and punished, in a statement posted on his official website on Thursday.

The provincial judiciary said at least 10 people were arrested following the incident, including the mayor and two former mayors, accused of being “responsible” for the collapse, the Judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported.

An investigation has been opened into the cause of the disaster in Abadan, a city of 230,000 people, 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of Tehran.

Iranians gather at the site where a ten-story building collapsed in the southwestern city of Abadan on May 23, 2022. (Tasnim News/AFP)

First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber visited Abadan on Friday to “investigate the dimensions of the building collapse incident,” according to ISNA.

In a previous major disaster in Iran, 22 people, including 16 firefighters, died in a blaze that engulfed the capital’s 15-story Plasco shopping center in January 2017.

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