Death toll in building collapse in southern Iran rises to 19

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Rescuers at the site of a collapsed building in southwestern Iran recovered five more bodies on Thursday, bringing the death toll from the disaster this week to 19, state-run media reported.

It remains unclear how many more people are buried beneath the rubble after the collapse on Monday of the under-construction 10-story tower of the Metropol Building in the city of Abadan. Emergency workers have rescued 37 people so far.

The deadly collapse has raised questions about the safety of similar buildings in the country and underscored an ongoing crisis in Iranian construction projects that has seen other disasters in this earthquake-prone nation. Authorities have arrested the city’s mayor and several other suspects in a widening probe.

The governor of the southwestern Khuzestan province, Sadegh Khalilian, said that “disregard for technical standards” during construction of the Metropol Building caused the collapse. Authorities specifically blamed overbuilding, saying it was only legally permitted to be a six-story tower but that four floors had been added during construction.

Critics also have drawn attention to corruption in the building permits process. Iraq’s long war on Iran in the 1980s saw Abadan and the surrounding region destroyed in the fighting. In the years since, fast private and state-linked construction projects rebuilt the area, amid complaints of shoddy construction practices.

“The collapse of Metropol is nothing except an indication of increasing systemic corruption,” said Hassan Mohaddesi, a professor of sociology at Tehran’s Azad University.

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

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