Owners questioned as Beirut building collapse kills 24

Rescue crews continue to search the rubble of the five-storey building whose collapse killed at least 24 people on Sunday night.
Rescue workers carry a body found under the debris of a collapsed building in the Fassouh area of the Lebanese capital.
Rescue workers carry a body found under the debris of a collapsed building in the Fassouh area of the Lebanese capital.

BEIRUT // Rescue crews yesterday continued to search the rubble of the five-storey building whose collapse killed at least 24 people on Sunday night.

At least 12 people had been pulled alive from the debris, General Raymond Khattar, head of Lebanon's civil defence, told Agence France-Presse.

An investigation of the collapse, which destroyed the building, was launched yesterday.

Lebanon's interior minister, Marwan Charbel, said the building was home to 50 people.

"The building fell like cardboard and we did not find any steel or iron which are usually used in buildings," the state-run National News Agency quoted him as saying.

The building's owner was held for questioning by police.

Mr Charbel said that finding more survivors was unlikely, with the death toll expected to rise.

Among the dead was a 15-year-old Lebanese girl as well as several Sudanese, Egyptian, Jordanian and Filipino nationals who lived in the apartment building. It was believed to be home to a number of foreign workers, local media reported.

Lebanon's president, Michel Suleiman, was among the officials who visited the scene on Sunday night. It was not immediately clear exactly what caused the collapse of the building, which local media reported was constructed in the 1940s. However, initial speculation linked the accident to possible cracks in the structure made worse by recent rains.

Lebanon's prime minister, Nejib Mikati, yesterday announced the formation of a committee to oversee the investigation, naming one of his advisers, Claude Masaad, an engineer, as head of the task force. The National News Agency said the committee also includes representatives from government ministries and Beirut's municipality.

zconstantine@thenational.ae

Published: January 17, 2012 04:00 AM

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