Death toll in Iran building collapse rises to 37

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates , May 01 (AP) — The death toll in a catastrophic collapse of a tower in southwestern Iran rose to 37 on Wednesday, officials said, as emergency workers pulled another body from the rubble over a week after the disaster that has prompted an outpouring of outrage and grief in the country.

Rescuers continued sifting through the ruins of the Metropol Building in Abadan, some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran. The governor of the Khuzestan province, Sadegh Khalilian, told state TV that he expects rescuers to find more bodies, based on the number of families still waiting in limbo for word from their loved ones. It’s unclear how many people remain unaccounted for.

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

Officials plan to demolish the half of the Metropol Building that has remained standing, Khalilian added, and already have evacuated and rehoused nearby residents. He said he expects the search effort to finish by late Thursday.

Footage widely circulating online in recent days has shown angry crowds gathering in mourning and protest at the collapse site, chanting slogans against top officials. Reporting on events in Abadan remains extremely difficult as authorities have disrupted internet access, according to experts, restricting people’s ability to share videos and information.

Foreign-based Farsi-language television channels have described tear gas and other shots being fired as security forces dispersed demonstrations. The number of casualties and arrests remains unclear.

The disaster has provoked sympathy across the country, with scores of Iranians still tweeting the Farsi-language hashtag “#Abadan is not alone” 10 days after the collapse.

Meanwhile tensions continue to simmer in the wider Middle East after Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard last week seized two Greek oil tankers at sea. Satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press on Wednesday confirmed that one of the two Greek oil tankers seized by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard remains off the coast of the port city of Bandar Abbas.

The Planet Labs PBC images from Tuesday showed the Prudent Warrior between Bandar Abbas and Iran’s Qeshm Island near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all the world’s oil traded passes. The location of the vessel also matched an earlier position offered by a satellite tracker briefly switched on by the ship’s crew.