Middle East

Fatal building collapse in Beirut

Workers remove rubble at the site of a collapsed building in Beirut, Lebanon, on 16 January 2012
Tenants of the "run-down" building had reportedly been urged to move out, before the collapse happened

At least 25 people died when a five-storey building collapsed in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

Rescuers are continuing their search of the site in the Ashrafiyeh district for a further 16 people believed to be buried beneath the rubble.

At least 12 people were injured when the building - said to house around 50 people - came down unexpectedly on Sunday evening.

Most of the dead were foreign workers living in Lebanon, officials said.

The victims included eight Sudanese, two Filipinos, two Egyptians and two Jordanians, AP quoted unnamed security officials as saying.

It is not yet known what caused the sudden collapse.

Local reports are speculating that cracks in the building made worse by heavy rain may have been the cause, or that the building could have been damaged by the impact of construction at several nearby sites.

'Extremely run-down'

Rescuers were using cranes, bulldozers and their bare hands to continue their search of the rubble on Monday.

Hopes are fading that any more survivors will be found in the collapsed building

But hopes of finding anyone else alive were fading.

Among the bodies were those of Tanios Farhat, 73, and his three sons, who appeared to have become trapped under the rubble as they tried to save their father, AP reports.

Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh confirmed 12 people had been injured, although none of them seriously.

Mr Khattar said the building had housed some 50 people.

At least eight people had escaped as the building came down, he added.

One witness told a local television channel that "it was like an earthquake" when the block collapsed.

A resident who escaped with her mother said the building was extremely run-down and the owner had recently warned tenants to move out, AFP reported.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman visited the site on Sunday evening, as did Interior Minister Marwan Charbel.

Mr Charbel told reporters the building's owner was being questioned by the authorities.

He added it was essential to carry out a survey of similar buildings across the country, many of which were built illegally or had several floors added without proper permits.