Death toll in Beirut building collapse rises to 25

Death toll in Beirut building collapse rises to 25

The death toll from a building that collapsed in Beirut rose to 25 late Monday, officials said, as rescue teams continued to work under heavy rain with only a slim hope of finding any survivors, DPA reported.

Most of the dead were foreign workers living in Lebanon, said the head of the Red Cross operations at the scene, George Kattaneh.

"Until now, 25 bodies have been recovered and we believe there are more buried under the building," Kattaneh told dpa.

Among the dead was a 15-year-old Lebanese girl, a 73-year-old Lebanese man, as well as Sudanese, Egyptian and Filipino nationals who work in Lebanon.

Earlier, Kattaneh said 12 people had been rescued and transferred to hospital for treatment.

The six-story building collapsed in Ashrafiyeh, a neighbourhood in eastern Beirut, Sunday night. Poor weather conditions added to the delay in rescue operations.

"The rescue crews with their limited means managed to rescue some people, but the weather conditions made it very difficult for them to rescue more people," said a Civil Defence volunteer at the scene.

Head of Civil Defence Brigadier General Raymond Khattar told dpa that more than 40 people were believed to be in the building when it collapsed.

Gladis Naeem said she lost her father and brother in the building, and was still searching for two other brothers.

The head of the Public Works Parliamentary Commission, Mohammad Qabbani, admitted Monday that more coordination was needed when dealing with disasters.

"The Central Command for Disasters is absent, and there is no readiness to deal with such catastrophes," Qabbani said.

Building rarely collapse in Lebanon and officials said the cause of Sunday's accident was not yet clear. One hypothesis being investigated is that existing cracks in the old building were made worse by heavy rain or the effects of several nearby construction sites.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the owner of the collapsed building, Michel Saadeh, had been arrested and was being questioned.

"We thought first it was an earthquake and then we were covered with dust and debris," Albert Yezbeck, a survivor, told dpa.

Rescue workers were still working shortly before sunset, using cranes, bulldozers and their bare hands to search the rubble.

"We are hoping to find people alive. There are still some missing," Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.

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