The death toll in a building collapse in southwestern Iran rose to at least 41 on Monday, state media reported, two weeks after the disaster.

Abadan city governor Ehsun Abbaspour gave the figure based on an official report, state television said.

It is unclear how many people are still missing in the collapse of the still-under-construction Metropol Building in Abadan two weeks ago. Rescuers were still working and families were still awaiting news from loved ones despite promises that the search operation would now be over.

The structural failure of construction in the oil-rich but impoverished province of Khuzestan has drawn public attention to shoddy building practices and sparked massive allegations of government corruption and negligence. Authorities have arrested 13 people as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the disaster, including Abadan Mayor Hossein Hamidpour, who resigned last Friday.

To dispel public mistrust, President Ebrahim Raisi paid a surprise visit to Abadan last Friday, where he inspected the disaster site and offered his personal condolences to the families of the victims. During his trip, businessmen lodged complaints about the extent of corruption in local government, state media reported.

Raisi promised that the government would “not hesitate to deal with violators” and “monitor construction more closely, especially high-rise buildings”.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks on the death anniversary of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, pictured in the poster top center, at his mausoleum in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2022. (Office of Iran’s Supreme Leader via AP)

“Authors should know that the passage of time will not absolve them of responsibility and accountability,” he said.

The collapse of the May 23 building some 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran, has brought back painful memories of past national disasters.

This followed weeks of sporadic protests in Khuzestan province over soaring prices after the government cut subsidies for several staple foods. There were protests in Abadan over the collapse, which saw protesters from the police club and firing tear gas.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday blamed foreign “enemies” for protests in the country at a ceremony in Tehran, marking 33 years since the death of his predecessor and leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Addressing the ceremony at Khomeini’s mausoleum, Khamenei said the foreigners hoped to harm the country’s regime through the unrest.

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