BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Part of Burj Hammoud building collapses onto parked cars

Debris from the section of the “under-construction” building that collapsed in the Beirut suburb of Burj Hammoud. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Two elderly women escaped death Friday when a wall of a building under renovation fell on their parked car in the Beirut suburb of Burj Hammoud, eyewitnesses said.

The uninhabited building’s wall fell due to what local residents said was a “poor foundation.”

The wall crushed two cars parked on the street, causing heavy traffic congestion and damaging an electricity pole, cutting off power in the neighborhood. Two women who were in a car escaped before the wall fell on their vehicle.

Nearby shop owners and residents told The Daily Star that they had expected the collapse. One nearby resident said he had seen the wall leaning forward at around 11 a.m.

A neighboring shop owner said he had set up his business just two months earlier, and since that time he had regularly heard noises and felt the ground rumbling. He claimed that all the surrounding establishments knew the renovation area had posed a danger.

A second shop owner whose store is located directly adjacent to the collapsed wall, said he had thought it was his building that had collapsed

“I was eating in the back room when I heard a loud noise,” said the shop owner, who declined to give his name. He added that upon hearing the noise, he had pushed open the door and sprinted out the front exit of the shop. “The owner and the engineer are reckless,” he said. “I was arguing with the engineer earlier in the day. I don’t know anything about being an engineer, but I felt what he was doing wasn’t safe.”

“[The engineer] told me ‘don’t worry, it won’t fall down.’ Then after half an hour it fell.”

Neither the building’s owner nor engineer appeared at the scene. Other residents were quoted by local media as saying that the municipal authorities had been aware of the worrying conditions at the site.

The authorities have promised to crack down on lax building safety conditions in recent months, following the collapse of a seven-story building in Ashrafieh in January that left 27 people dead and 12 injured.

Two other buildings have collapsed in the Kesrouan town of Tabarja this month, the first of which killed one person, while the collapse of wall at a school’s courtyard in a village in Minyeh, took the life of three students.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 24, 2012, on page 4.

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