Demolition of the Metropol complex began in the Iranian city of Abadan, almost exactly a month after Tower 2 collapsed. Official figures now say 43 people were killed in the disaster and 38 injured. Others who were present on that fateful day are still missing, presumed dead.
Ehsan Abbaspour, the governor of Abadan, reported that site clearance work began on June 15. “In accordance with the decisions of the experts,” he said, “the works have been distributed and the necessary equipment, including a 250-tonne crane, has been installed on Amir Kabir Street. The operation, he said, will start at the top of the structure and move downwards, led by the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya construction headquarters.
Residents raised fears that more bodies could still be buried on the lower floors of the building. At the time of the collapse, many on-site workers were having lunch in the basement. A foreman told Etemad News that at least 150 people worked in the building every day, which was later corroborated by a food delivery man.
“On the sixth day of the cleanup,” a source on site IranWire, “a rescue worker shouted that they had to stop because there were more bodies among the debris. Many people are still missing – passers-by, workers and the laboratory next to the building.
“Some of the workers were illegal and no one knew they were there. This morning they found another unknown corpse under a column. He was a worker from a poor village in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province. His family didn’t know where he worked, so they didn’t ask after him. Even his colleagues barely knew him; it had started there just days before the collapse.
“They also pulled a Pride car out from under the rubble with six bodies inside. The picture of the car is everywhere, but no one mentions that the bodies were in such terrible condition that they couldn’t get them out of the car. There are also workers from Minoo Shahr [a small island near Abadan] whose bodies have not yet been found. They have no one to follow on their behalf.
The bereaved families
In Abadan, one has the feeling that it is not only the families of the victims who are bereaved, but the whole city.
“I can’t describe it,” a resident, who knows several of the affected families, told IranWire on June 16. “The dust of death covered the city. For 22 days, everyone has had one foot in the cemetery and the other in mourning ceremonies.
“A few nights ago there was a gathering outside the church. Hamid Jalilian’s mother, who lost her loved one under the rubble, was fighting so hard that I wanted to die on the spot.
“I have known them for years. I had known Hamid since he was a baby in his mother’s arms. When he was six or seven years old, he was very playful and kind and accompanied his mother when she went shopping. His father has an old taxi. Their financial situation is not great and they have worked very hard to raise it. I feel so awful about his loss. May God grant his patience to his parents, who had to bury their only child.
The extreme pain, for some, gives way to thoughts about justice and responsibility. Some families are considering legal action against those responsible for the disaster, and a number of lawyers in Abadan have announced their willingness to represent them and the injured pro bono.
In response, the head of the Ministry of Justice of Khuzestan announcement that a special working group had been formed to study various aspects of the disaster. “The judiciary is determined to take action against all manifestations of corruption,” the statement read. “He will act within the law, whoever the person is.”
Behind the scenes, however, the two groups are not acting in harmony as they should. One of the affected family members told IranWire: “When the lawyers who had volunteered to help went to the Ministry of Justice, they were told: ‘Forget to look into the case or sue anyone. This is a confidential security file. You will just have to convince the families to accept the restitution [blood money] so that their complaints can be dealt with expeditiously.’”
When the doublespeak of the Islamic Republic is not used, the matter has nothing to do with “security”. The collapse of the Metropol complex appears to have been the result of systematic collusion and corruption on the part of city officials, the Arvand Free Zonethe building’s real estate magnate owner and his high-level backers.
The people of Abadan are aware of this and have repeatedly called for the identification and punishment of all culprits. A letter addressed to justice and published on the Karzar website demands “transparent, public and fair” investigations of the owner, his company Abdolbaghi Holdings, the architects and planners of Metropol, the contractors, the supervising engineers, the municipality, the Abadan Water and Electricity Utilities and other officials involved in any degree in the construction of the building.
Government officials who visited families at home, one person said, “took our pictures and videos of our pain and grief, and left. Now when we want to follow up on what happened past, they won’t even let us into the governor’s office.
Survivor: “God, grant me patience”
In the days immediately following the disaster, a photo of a young woman buried up to her neck in rubble circulated on the internet. Covered in dust, she held a phone in her hand. The shocking image was of Fatemeh Ghasemi, who worked as a shop assistant in Metropol, and miraculously survived after spending 18 days in Golestan hospital.
At the time of the transfer, Fatemeh was in serious condition, suffering from trauma, blood-filled eyes, spinal injuries and kidney dysfunction. She has since written about her ordeal on her PageInstagram; although she managed to regain her health, she says, she was devastated by the loss of some of her friends: Shirin Masoumi, Ramin Masoumi, Maryam Ghorbani and Nadia Kaabi. “Shirin,” she wrote, “the lovely bride, Maryam, kind Ramin, my dear Nadia…God grant me patience.”