Building collapse in Iran kills 11 as mayor and others are detained

According to Iranian media, the death toll in the collapse of a commercial building still under construction in southwestern Iran has reached 11, after more bodies were found in the rubble of the city. of Abadan.

Tehran, Iran – Rescuers on Tuesday dug up the debris of a building collapse in southwestern Iran that killed at least 11 people, fearing many more could still be trapped under the rubble as that authorities have arrested the city’s mayor amid a widening investigation into the disaster.

Monday’s collapse of a 10-story tower under construction at the Metropol Building exposed its cement blocks and steel beams while underscoring an ongoing crisis in Iranian construction projects that has seen other disasters in that country subject to earthquakes.

Video of the initial collapse on Monday showed a thick rise of dust over Abadan, a crucial oil-producing town in Khuzestan province near Iran’s border with Iraq. The Metropol Building comprised two towers, one already built and the other under construction, although its lower commercial floors were completed and already had tenants.

On Tuesday, an emergency official interviewed on state television suggested that as many as 50 people may have been inside the building at the time of the collapse, including people moving into its basements. However, it was unclear whether this figure included those already removed from the rubble. At least 39 people were injured, most lightly, officials said.

Aerial drone footage released on Tuesday showed the floors had piled on top of each other, leaving a dusty, gray pile of debris. A construction crane stopped nearby as a single backhoe dug. State television said at least 11 people had been killed.

An angry mob at the site chased and beat Abadan Mayor Hossein Hamidpour immediately after the collapse, according to semi-official ILNA news agency and online videos.

Police then arrested Hamidpour and nine other people, Iranian media reported on Tuesday. Initially, authorities said the building’s owner and his general contractor were also arrested, although a later report by the Mizan forensic news agency said on Tuesday that both men were killed in the collapse. . The conflicting reports could not be immediately reconciled.

Authorities did not immediately say whether those detained were charged, and it was not immediately clear whether lawyers were representing them.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi offered his condolences and called on local authorities to shed light on the matter. Iranian Vice President for Economic Affairs Mohsen Razaei and Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi visited the site.

Lawmakers opened a separate parliamentary inquiry into the case on Tuesday, trying to determine why the building on Amir Kabir Street collapsed during a sandstorm. However, no major earthquakes were recorded on Monday near Abadan, some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of Tehran.

A local journalist in Abadan had repeatedly raised concerns about the construction of the building, starting last year, posting images he said showed sagging floors in the first tower. He also alleged corruption in the building permit process.

Abadan became the center of development for the British from 1909 when they built what became the largest oil refinery in the world at the time. Iran then nationalized its oil industry in the decades leading up to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iraq’s long war against Iran in the 1980s saw Abadan and the surrounding region destroyed in the fighting. In the years that followed, private and state-linked rapid construction projects rebuilt the area, amid complaints of shoddy building practices.

The collapse reminded many of the 2017 fire and collapse of the iconic Plasco building in Tehran that killed 26 people.

Abadan has also suffered from historical disasters. In 1978, an intentional fire at the city’s Cinema Rex killed hundreds of people. Anger over the fire sparked unrest in oil-rich parts of Iran and contributed to the Islamic Revolution that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.


Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.

ABC News

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