Four killed including baby and parents as building collapses south of Beirut

Disaster is the second in Choueifat in less than 10 days

Four people were killed in the Beirut building collapse and there are fears for other residents who remain missing. Photo: National News Agency (Lebanon)
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A residential building collapsed in Choueifat, a suburb south of Beirut on Monday evening, killing at least four people.

Four others were rescued overnight, local authorities told The National.

Two families, both of Syrian nationality, lived in the collapsed block. The building, built under a cliff, collapsed in a landslide after days of heavy rain.

Among the dead were an eight-month-old boy and his parents, according to a neighbour and relative of the family, Amin Mohammad Taqo, who lived two buildings away in the lower-income area of Choueifat, where many Syrian workers live due to cheaper rent.

Rescue workers on Tuesday morning said they had worked non-stop to dig people from the rubble and operations had come to a close.

"All that's left is to bring in the bulldozers and clear the debris," an official for the Public Health Authority told The National. "When the building fell it damaged the structure of the neighbouring building and that one might very well fall once we remove all the rubble."

The two buildings next to the collapsed block were immediately evacuated after the incident.

By mid-morning on Tuesday, families in the neighbouring structures were in the process of moving their belongings out of their homes and into alternative shelters.

Imad Ahmad Hasmous, a construction worker who lived with his family in a building next door, was holding bags of personal belongings from his third-floor apartment as he told The National he had been long feared such a collapse would occur.

"I noticed the mountain had been gradually crumbling over the last year," Mr Hasmous said. "I warned the building owner about the impending danger but he dismissed it, saying, "What will happen? It is OK."

Mr Hasmous said he had tried to move his family to a safer apartment but the rent was too high.

Residents said they were unsure whether the collapse was due to a natural disaster or shoddy construction.

"It was God's will," Mr Taqo said tearfully as he stood near the flattened home of his relatives.

He said he and his family would take shelter temporarily in Choueifat Cultural Centre until they found a new place to live.

"I used to see them every day," the 28 year old told The National in disbelief, referring to his deceased cousin Mohammad, his wife and their baby. "On most days we ate dinner together: either they came to our house or we went to theirs."

He said he was at home when he heard the sound of the nearby building caving in. He and his family fled their home when they felt tremors in their own building.

"The last time I saw Mohammad was when he was coming home from work. He honked as he passed me and parked under his building. His van is under the rubble now," Mr Taqo added, pointing at a pile of concrete and iron rods.

A pink bicycle was sticking out of a pile of debris and behind it, a couch was partially visible under a caved-in roof.

Local officials said the foundation of the four-storey building was not considered safe and two years ago the municipality ordered tenants to be moved elsewhere.

Despite the order, the owner rented the flats to Syrian families.

It is the second such building collapse in Choueifat in less than 10 days and the fourth in Lebanon this month. A five-floor building collapsed in the area this month but residents were able to escape and there were no casualties.

On Sunday, a two-storey building collapsed in the lower-income Beirut suburb of Al Rihab.

Such incidents – blamed on poor structural integrity and disregard for building regulations – are not uncommon in Lebanon.

In November 2022, a school pupil died in Tripoli when part of her classroom's ceiling collapsed.

Updated: February 20, 2024, 2:52 PM