Lebanon News

Probe into Beirut building collapse, death toll hits 26

BEIRUT: An investigation was launched Monday into the collapse of a building in Beirut over the weekend as the death toll rose to 26 and hopes for finding more survivors faded.

The recent bodies that were recovered were for Maroun Saad, 21, and his wife Alice Fghali. Also among the dead were three brothers aged between 22 and 27 and their father Tanious Farhat, 70. The body of Janet Abu Sarhal has also been recovered.

The five bodies are on their way to the state-run Rafik Hariri hospital in Beirut.

The director of the public prosecution has ordered the police to probe the collapse of the five-story building in the Fassouh neighborhood of Ashrafieh that came crashing down at around 6 p.m. Sunday.

Prosecutor George Karam inspected Monday the building site, where rescue workers continued their search through the rubble for survivors and bodies.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati also set up a technical committee tasked with looking into the causes that led to the collapse of the building.

"I meant to tell you personally that I formed a committee to investigate the reasons behind the tragic building collapse in Fassouh-Ashrafieh," Mikati said on his Twitter feed.

Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh told The Daily Star that 24 bodies, including the 15-year-old girl pronounced dead Sunday, had been recovered from the debris.

He said 12 people had also been pulled out alive from the rubble so far, but voiced doubt that chances of finding further survivors were slim.

Lebanon’s Cabinet decided Monday to compensate each of the Lebanese families affected by the collapse by awarding them an amount of LL30 million ($20,000).

However, the compensation for foreign families has not been decided yet.

The owner of the building, Michel Saadeh, has been arrested and is being questioned, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told local media earlier in the day.

Charbel said some 50 tenants had lived in the building, which was built in the 1940s.

On the matter of survivors, Charbel echoed Kettaneh’s fears that further survivors were unlikely to be found.

“[It is unlikely that] survivors will be found,” particularly given the extent of the destruction, Charbel said.

Among the victims were eight Sudanese, four Lebanese, two Jordanians from the Al-Bakli family, two Egyptian and two nationals from the Philippines, Kettaneh said.

The Lebanese were identified as Ann-Marie Abdel-Karim, 15, Eva Hakim, Jihad Tanious Farhat, 27, and Joseph Jaara. Two of the Sudanese were identified as Ibrahim Mohammad Hussein and Adam Ahmad. One of the Egyptian victims was identified as Hani Ibrahim Noureddine and a Jordanian was identified as Laith Al-Bakli.





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