Father rescued from sea after Beirut explosion dies

After days-long search, the body of Amine Al Zahid was returned to the family by a hospital in the Lebanese capital

Amine Al Zahid, the father of two who went missing for 30 hours after the Beirut explosion before he was rescued alive at sea, has died, his family said on Tuesday.

The family’s search for the 42-year-old Lebanese national lasted five days after the Lebanese military confirmed his rescue from the Mediterranean last week.

He was blown into the sea when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded at the city's port, set alight by what port workers say was a cache of fireworks.

Al Zahid's relatives were unable to locate him in the Lebanese capital until Monday when Beirut's Al Zahra Hospital contacted the family to deliver the news of his death, his brother Mohammad told The National.

“We received a call from the hospital yesterday and they asked us to go and collect his body. Right now we are going to bury him in Al Shuhada graveyard,” he said as the family headed to his funeral.

An official at Al Zahra hospital confirmed that Al Zahid was brought in by ambulance dead on Sunday, three days after he was rescued.

The official would not disclose who delivered him to the hospital. It remains unclear where he was before Al Zahra hospital.

“He was already dead when we received his corpse. I cannot confirm what caused his death but he had a serious head injury,” said the official. The official would not disclose further details about his death.

Mohammad said the family had been kept in the dark and was not told any details about what had happened.

“I can only assume that they called and said my brother is dead without revealing any details. We don’t know what happened after we had been told that he was picked up alive but injured,” he said.

The manager of a company at Beirut's port was believed to have been thrown into the Mediterranean when the stockpile of ammonium nitrate exploded on Tuesday.

The health ministry on Saturday said 21 people were still missing after the blast. Beirut's governor said many foreign workers and truck drivers remained missing and were assumed to be among the casualties, complicating efforts to identify the victims.

Before its resignation, the Lebanese Cabinet blamed negligence for the explosion that has so far killed 171 people, left more than 6,000 people injured and dozens missing.

Desperate for information, the family had posted a picture of Al Zahid and contact details on social media, alongside hundreds of other images being shared of loved ones who had not been seen since the blast.

A photo of him lying bloodied on a boat next to a military officer was circulated across social media.

“Ten minutes prior to the explosion, he sent me a photo of the fire that preceded the explosion,” Mohammad said last week.

As the family battled to find him, searching every hospital in Beirut and publicising the mystery of his case, at least three ministers from the now-collapsed government were drawn into the search efforts.

But he would become one of the 171 victims of the disaster at Beirut port, and they would never get to say goodbye.