2022 – Iranian police fire and tear gas to disperse protests over the collapse of a building. from Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the site of a ten-storey building collapse in Abadan, Iran on May 23, 2022. WANA (West Asian News Agency) via Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian police used tear gas and gunfire in the air to break up protests another night over a building collapse in the southwestern city of Abadan, which officials blame on corruption and lax security, Fars news agency reported. Social media said.

Officials in the oil-producing Khuzestan region, where Abadan is located, said the death toll had risen to 28 and another 37 were injured in the collapse of the 10-storey residential and commercial building on Monday. She added that so far, 13 people have been arrested for building violations.

Authorities investigating the disaster have arrested current and former Abadan mayors and several other city employees, amid allegations that safety warnings were ignored.

Fars news agency said that a demonstration in Abadan turned violent on Friday night as crowds poured into the ruins of the building as rescue operations continued. Police said they fired tear gas and warning shots.

Videos on social media showed people running for cover. Crying “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot” and the sound of gunfire was heard. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

An unconfirmed video clip from Mahshahr, the port of Khuzestan, showed protesters chanting “They stole oil and gas and took our blood.”

According to other unconfirmed posts on social media, marches of solidarity with the Abadan protests were also held in several nearby regions of Khuzestan, as well as in Shahin Shahr in central Iran and in the southern city of Shiraz.

First Vice President Mohamed Mokhber told state television on Friday that he believed the disaster was the cause of “endemic corruption” among construction companies, contractors and regulators.

As with previous protests over food price hikes, local residents have reported internet services being disrupted in an apparent attempt to stop the use of social media to organize rallies and distribute videos. Officials deny blocking access to the Internet.