More than 40 people were found dead and dozens more injured following the collapse of the Metropol building in Abadan, Iran on May 23, 2022. Protests erupted shortly after the disaster as residents blamed the tragedy, as well as the slow rescue intervention, on government corruption
The Iranian Red Crescent Society and firefighters were dispatched to help the victims of the collapse and search for survivors. However, search and rescue operations were mainly carried out by residents, according to our Observer, Leili (pseudonym), an Iranian activist who lives in Abadan. After the building collapsed, she rushed to the site.
The bulk of the relief effort rests on the shoulders of the residents. The firefighters and the Red Crescent seem overwhelmed. No one knows what is happening on the site. There is no clear rescue plan.
Volunteers tried to dig up survivors and bodies with rudimentary tools. They brought all sorts of tools they thought would be useful: hacksaws, shovels and even pots for removing gravel. And I must say that the volunteers have done and still do most of the work.
Rescue teams are working with large machinery to clear the area, but that’s a small part of the job. Because you have to dig and crawl under tons of gravel and cement to find the bodies. It must be done by hand, not by machines, and this work is done by volunteers, not by rescue groups. Brothers or fathers dig alone to find the bodies of their loved ones.
Protests erupted in Abadan soon after the collapse, then spread to other cities in Iran.
Demonstrations were brutally suppressed and many demonstrators were arrested, including well-known activists. There are more and more people outside Abadan prison looking for their arrested relatives.
They shot people with tear gas and beat them. They used so much tear gas that rescue teams and volunteers had to suspend rescue operations.
>> Read more from The Observers: ‘Instead of rescue teams, they sent in riot police’: Building collapse sparks outrage in Iran
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for those responsible for the tragedy to be prosecuted and punished. Regional justice also announced that it had arrested thirteen people, including the mayor of Abadan and two of its former mayors.