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Iran protesters seek justice as building collapse toll rises

Iranian vice president Mohammad Mokhber tours the site of the tower block collapse which killed at least 26 people in the southwestern city of Abadan
— Tehran (AFP)

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in southwestern Iran demanding justice after a tower block collapse killed 26 people, news outlets in the Islamic republic said on Friday.

A large section of the 10-storey Metropol building that was under construction in the city of Abadan crumbled on Monday in one of Iran's deadliest such disasters in years.

Images published by Fars news agency showed hundreds of residents marching along Abadan's streets on Thursday night, mourning those who lost their lives by banging on traditional drums and hitting cymbals.

Some shouted "Death to incompetent officials" and hailed the "Martyrs of Metropol", Fars said.

A shop in Abadan belonging to the family of the building's owner "was set on fire and destroyed by unknown individuals on Thursday night," Tasnim news agency reported.

People also took to the streets of Khorramshahr, another city in Khuzestan province, calling for "a decisive and serious" trial of those responsible, it added.

Similar protests had also been held in Abadan on Wednesday night, state television reported.

More than four days after the tower block's collapse, rescue teams were still recovering bodies from under slabs of cement.

A video posted on Tasnim news agency's website on Friday showed rescuers carrying a gurney with a body wrapped in a black bag.

It was one of two more bodies recovered during the day, taking the death toll to 26, state television reported.

A file picture shows a section of the 10-storey building that collapsed in Iran's Abadan

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for those responsible to be prosecuted and punished, in a statement posted on his official website on Thursday.

The provincial judiciary said at least 10 people had been arrested, including the mayor and two former mayors.

First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber visited Abadan on Friday to "investigate the dimensions of the building collapse", Iranian media reported.

"In my opinion, widespread corruption existed between the contractor, the builder, the supervisor and the licensing system," Mokhber told state television. "The building is in very bad condition."

In January 2017, 22 people, including 16 firefighters, died in a blaze that engulfed the 15-storey Plasco shopping centre in Tehran.

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