Ten days after the May 23 collapse of the Metropol, a four-year-old 10-story building in Abadan, southern Iran, the death toll has risen, the building's owner is nowhere to be found, and public protests have turned into vigils.
Dozens are dead or unaccounted for under the rubble of the building as the toll continues to rise, with the Khuzestan governor's office on June 2 announcing that 38 people were dead and a further 38 injured in the collapse.
A number of the wounded remain hospitalised, it said, and three bodies pulled out from under the rubble have yet to be identified, as the search goes on.
The building was part of a colossal residential and leisure complex built and owned by Abdolbaghi Holding, a major family-owned holding company active in Abadan since 1937.
According to multiple reports, the holding company's chief executive officer, Hossein Abdolbaghi, has close ties to many government and city officials.
Some say this is why the Metropol was eventually approved for occupancy, media reports and observers said, even though its construction broke several industry rules and the high-rise did not adhere to the city's building regulations.
Ali Shamkhani, who is secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and also hails from southern Iran (Ahvaz), is said to be close to the company's management, though he has denied he is close to Abdolbaghi.
Shamkhani traveled to Abadan to attend the victims' funerals.
Abdolbaghi has been out of sight since the disaster. It remains unclear if he was killed in the collapse or is merely seeking to evade attention.
Disaster in the making
According to domestic media, the Metropol was granted a city permit four years ago as a seven-story mid-rise, but three levels were subsequently added to it, in a move widely construed to be a sign of corruption.
The Construction Engineering Organisation, which must approve all city permits and requests for structural changes, initially did not grant a high-rise permit.
Metropol received a permit after the protesting head engineer of the overviewing team continuously refused to sign it and was later fired from his position.
Reports from Abadan emphasise Abdolbaghi's close ties with city officials and the corruption involved in both granting and obtaining the permit.
Before the collapse, firefighters had warned the city and the holding company about an imminent tragedy.
Many of those killed and injured were construction workers actively working on the building. They reportedly were not insured.
Ahead of the collapse, Abadan's state TV station regularly aired the holding company's lavish commercials, enticing and encouraging the public to buy property in the residential and leisure complex.
An Abadan-based civil engineer, who requested anonymity and whose husband was insistent upon buying a unit in the building, told Al-Mashareq she had seen the "signs of a disaster in the making" when she managed to get hold of the building's structural plans through a friend who works in the city's municipality.
She said she convinced her husband to forget about buying an apartment in the complex when she was certain that doing so would be "fatally dangerous".
Since the collapse, according to domestic media, 13 people, including several city officials, have been arrested over wrongdoings in connection with the incident.
Meanwhile, observers commented, the financial aid the government has pledged to offer the apartment owners is "too little, too late".
It is also not the first incident of this nature, they noted, pointing to the January 2017 fire and collapse of Tehran's iconic commercial Plasco high-rise.
Dozens were killed in the conflagration, which occurred during now-Majles Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf's mayoral tenure, as years of warnings over fire hazards in the building were ignored.
Crackdown on protests
Regime security forces moved swiftly to repress the protests that began the day after the Metropol incident, when mourners and other members of the public started protesting around the site.
Anti-riot forces using tear gas opened fire on the crowd.
After nine days, they are still deterring public gatherings near the site, under the pretext of preventing disruption to ongoing search and rescue efforts.
In the immediate aftermath of the collapse, protesters chanted slogans against city and regime officials, pleading with security forces to "put down their guns".
But most public protests across southern Iran have now turned into vigils.
In the southern city of Kazeroun, mourners were directed to sit next to candles they had lit to hold a vigil, as security forces feared a protest if vigil-holders were to stand up.
On Kish Island, mourners faced the heavy presence of security forces, deterring them from gathering in protest.
The regime's crackdown has been unable to stop social media comments and hashtags in support of the victims and against the regime's heavy security presence, including "Metropol"; "Don't_Shoot" and "Abadan_Is_Not_Alone".