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At least 10 injured in Justice Ministry blaze
Red Cross workers evacuate a man from the ministry building.
Red Cross workers evacuate a man from the ministry building.
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BEIRUT: The director general of the Justice Ministry and at least eight ministry staff were hospitalized when a fire broke out on the fifth floor of the building Tuesday afternoon.

Judge Omar Natour, the ministry’s director general, his son Mahmoud, and eight staff members suffered minor and moderate injuries in the fire, which was triggered by a short circuit.

While many inside the building managed to escape before the fire spread from one floor to others, many of the injured passed out and needed to be treated for smoke inhalation.

After arriving to the scene of the fire, firefighters evacuated the fifth floor using their ladders and put out the fire nearly an hour after it erupted.

A source at the ministry said Natour suffered minor burns to his face, in addition to a head injury sustained when he passed out due to smoke inhalation. He was rushed to the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Ashrafieh. He was later discharged.

One group of other injured were taken to Hayat Hospital, while the justice mnister’s adviser, Marwan Hayek, and other staff were taken to Hotel Dieu.

Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi inspected the building and expressed relief that Natour and the other employees were not seriously hurt.

“They should leave the hospitals soon,” Qortbawi told reporters outside the Justice Ministry.

In all, firefighters rescued about a dozen staff who were trapped with Natour on the ministry’s fifth floor in the Badaro neighborhood of Beirut.Four fire trucks from the Beirut fire department were involved in the operation.

In a statement later in the day, Qortbawi said that repairs to the building would begin Wednesday morning and the ministry would continue its work.

“Repairs will start tomorrow morning and all the departments of the ministry will use the floors that are least damaged to provide the necessary services to the Lebanese without interruption,” he said.

He also thanked the Civil Defense and the Red Cross teams for their courageous involvement in rescuing the ministry’s staff from the fire.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2012, on page 3.
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