Beirut blast victims awarded $1m in damages by UK court

A judge in London made the ruling after Savaro was found liable for the explosion

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The company found liable for the Beirut explosion has been ordered by a British court to pay $1 million in compensation to some of the victims.

A judge awarded the victims about £850,000 after hearing first-hand accounts from four victims, including the parents of a three-year-old girl who was killed, about the impact of the blast on their lives.

At least 215 people were killed when a shipment of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, imported by Savaro, was left in a warehouse in Beirut port for several years before it caught fire and exploded in August 2020.

The award of damages comes after the High Court earlier this year found Savaro liable for the explosion.

We no longer have any joy in our lives
Elie Malahi, father of Ralf Malahi, one of 10 firefighters who died in the blast

The case was brought by the Beirut Bar Association and was able to be heard under English law because Savaro is registered in England and Wales.

A team of British lawyers including barrister Neil Hart KC and solicitors Dechert waived their fees to bring the case.

Savaro was not represented and Judge Roger Eastman ordered the company to pay £760,000 in court costs, which will be paid to charity.

The same court has now heard statements from relatives of some of the victims.

Paul Naggear and Tracey Awad described how they desperately sought help for their daughter Alexandra after their neighbourhood was reduced to looking like a “war zone” after the blast.

Ms Awad discharged herself from hospital despite herself being seriously hurt and against doctors' advice so they could help Alexandra find treatment.

But the three-year-old died following brain surgery as the family held a vigil beside her bed.

Elie Malahi, the father of Ralf Malahi, one of 10 firefighters who died in the blast, described the impact of his son’s death, saying, “We no longer have any joy in our lives”.

He added that his wife “carries my son’s framed picture with her everywhere”.

Mr Malahi said the family were unable to have a proper funeral for the 23-year-old firefighter as they could not gather enough of his remains.

“In our house, we have not touched Ralf’s clothing and cupboard – we have kept them there so at least we can remember his smell,” said Mr Malahi.

“The grief that we have to bear as a family since that day has been unbearable. Our only hope is that when we meet Ralf again one day, we can tell him we got justice for him.”

Along with Alexandra’s parents, Mr Malahi's family were awarded £100,000 for emotional trauma.

The fourth claimant, Inaam Al Kayal, was awarded the bulk of the compensation, about £550,000, to cover her future medical expenses, lost earnings and emotional damage.

Ms Al Kayal said she was working in Lebanon’s Ministry of Communications at the time of the blast and was the sole breadwinner for her family.

In her evidence to the court, she described being in her office, working overtime to make ends meet, when the blast occurred.

Such was the extent of her injuries that she had to undergo eight hours of surgery, losing sight in one eye and partial sight in the other, with her face permanently scarred.

She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and has recurring nightmares that require mental health treatment.

Updated: June 13, 2023, 6:25 AM