An investigation was launched Monday into the collapse of a building in Beirut over the weekend as the death toll rose to 19 and hopes for finding more survivors faded.
The director of the public prosecution has ordered police to probe the collapse of the five-story building in the Fassouh neighborhood of Ashrafieh that came crashing down at around 6 p.m. Sunday.
Prosecutor George Karam arrived Monday at the building site, where rescue workers continued their search through the rubble for survivors.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati also set up a technical committee Monday tasked with looking into the causes that led to the collapse of the building.
Lebanese Red Cross official George Kettaneh told The Daily Star that 19 bodies, including the 15-year-old girl pronounced dead Sunday, had been recovered from the debris.
He said 12 people had also been pulled out alive from the rubble so far, but voiced doubt that chances of finding further survivors were slim.
The owner of the building, Michel Saadeh, has been arrested and is being questioned, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told local media.
Charbel said some 50 tenants had lived in the building, which was built in the 1940s.
On the matter of survivors, Charbel echoed Kettaneh’s fears that further survivors were unlikely to be found.
“[It is unlikely that] survivors will be found,” particularly given the extent of the destruction, Charbel said.
Among the victims were eight Sudanese, four Lebanese, two Jordanians from the Al-Bakli family, two Egyptian and two nationals from the Philippines, Kettaneh said.
The Lebanese were identified as Ann-Marie Abdel-Karim, 15, Eva Hakim, Jihad Tanious Farhat, 27, and Joseph Jaara. Two of the Sudanese were identified as Ibrahim Mohammad Hussein and Adam Ahmad. One of the Egyptian victims was identified as Hani Ibrahim Noureddine and a Jordanian was identified as Laith Al-Bakli.
Phalange Party MP Nadim Gemayel urged Prime Minister Najib Mikati in his capacity as supervisor of the Higher Relief Council to expedite compensation payments for victims’ families and secure housing.