At least 24 people are now known to have been killed since the planned Metropol complex in Abadan came crashing to the ground on Monday. The collapse of Tower 2 was the worst building safety disaster of its kind since the Plaso Building fire in Tehran in 2017. Of those so far pulled from the rubble, names, faces, and individual stories are now beginning to come to light. These are just a few of them.
Mary’s Café: Maryam, Ramin and Shirin
Maryam Ghorbani and Ramin Masoumi were a young couple who married two years ago. Both were cinematographers but had also opened up a small eatery, Mary's Café, in the Metropol complex in early 2022. Their lifeless bodies were found on the third day after the disaster.
“Maryam’s father has gone crazy,” a person close to Maryam told IranWire through tears. "He brought her up all by himself. Her mother was sick and she was told not to get pregnant, but she did; her health deteriorated when Maryam was born and eventually she passed away when Maryam was nine. He was heartbroken after the loss of his wife but he became a father and mother to Maryam.
"Even now that there's no hope of any child being alive, he's still standing in front of the ruins and saying he can save them."
Until around 5pm of the second day after the disaster, the family could still get hold of Ramin on the phone. He was still alive then, and answered, but Maryam's only rang through.
"Maryam had studied chemical engineering," the source said. "She got to know Ramin at university and they were married two years ago. Last year they decided to open a café. That day they had gone there and the building fell on their heads. They found Ramin’s body. But Maryam is still under the wreckage. They know there's no hope she is still alive.”
The losss of Ramin and Maryam is, unbelievably, not the only excruciating pain their families now have to bear. "Ramin had a young sister by the name of Shirin, who was to have her wedding this Thursday. She also lost her life in the disaster. Shirin had gone there because of Ramin and Maryam. She had a Saipa Tiba car and she was waiting for them in it outside. But she got buried under the rubble. Two families lost three young ones who had their whole lives ahead of them.”
“Words cannot relieve Abdan’s sorrow. My mind keeps repeating the words that Hamed Esmaeilion [a dentist who lost his wife and nine-year-old daughter in the downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752] said last summer in solidarity with the protests of the people of Khuzestan: 'We only bury bodies, the bodies of light and of the sun, the bodies of peace, prosperity and life. For forty-something years this house has been filled with mourning. Now, it is no longer the time for mourning. What we have left is our anger.'”
Fawzi Juice Shop: The Jalilian Family
In Iran's news agencies and on social media, the picture of a horror-stricken woman with her hands over her head, staring at the ruins in the dusty, red and black evening of the disaster, has taken on a life of its own. Her name is Fawzia Jalilian. She was waiting for the miracle that would pull her family out from under the debris alive.
“When I saw her in front of the building I could not believe she was the same, hopeful angel in white who'd helped all of us at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and now we are so helpless to help her,” a friend told IranWire. "My parents always told me about the Cinema Rex fire [in 1978, that killed up to 470 people]. I never imagined Abadan would witness a darker day."
The Jalilian family had a juice shop in the basement of the Metropol complex. Fawzia’s husband Hamid, her 20-year-old son Arin, her husband’s nephew Erfan, and two young customers - Saba Salehian, 10, and Malika Salehian, 14 - were killed in the collapse.
On the third day of debris removal, it was reported that an order had been issued to demolish the rest of the building. A video showed Hamid's mother, Fawzia's mother-in-law, weeping as she told the cameras: "Until six in the morning we could hear the voice of my Hamid, moaning and calling us for help. Relief workers heard it, too. If they tear down the building everything will be over.”
A Buried Car: The Sadeghi Family
The video of a blood-covered little boy in the arms of his father was recorded in the very first hour after the excavation started. “For god’s sake, help!” his father shouts. Somebody tells him to get the boy to hospital as soon as possible. “My car is under the rubble,” he cries.
That boy was not the only casualty of the Metropol collapse. Seven-year-old Masih Sadeghi was another. Her father did what he could but the injuries were so severe that she died in hospital.
At the burial ceremony for Masih, they played cymbals and dammam, a two-sided drum, as they do in southern Iran when disaster strikes. This old tradition has been associated with mourning for Imam Hossein since the Islamic Revolution, but it has a far longer history. The same instruments are played for ships lost at sea.