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24 killed as apartment block collapses in Beirut - ABC Online

Written By Ivan Kolev on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | 3:47 AM

By Middle East correspondent Anne Barker and staff

Updated January 17, 2012 07:21:23

The death toll from the collapse of a six-storey Beirut apartment block rose to at least 24 people, as rescuers combed the rubble for more bodies.

One witness in the Ashrafiyeh district of the Lebanese capital told local TV that the sound of the building collapsing was "like an earthquake".

The apartment block was home to about 50 people - many of them Sudanese and Egyptian labourers.

Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh said 12 people had been injured and at least eight escaped when the apartment block suddenly collapsed.

Among the dead was a 15-year-old girl.

One witness said debris began falling from the building in the early evening before the entire block came crashing down.

A resident who escaped with her mother said the building was extremely run-down and the owner had warned tenants not to remain there shortly before it disintegrated.

She told local television that she and her mother managed to escape as the building came tumbling down but her father and three brothers remained trapped.

The owner has since been detained for questioning.

Anxious relatives stayed at the site overnight weeping and praying as rescue workers with bulldozers sifted through the rubble.

President Michel Sleiman rushed to the site on Sunday evening (local time) as did interior minister Marwan Charbel and other officials.

Mr Charbel told reporters it was essential to carry out a survey of similar buildings throughout the country, many of which were built illegally or had several storeys added without proper permits.

Anxious relatives stayed at the site overnight weeping and praying as rescue workers with bulldozers sift through the rubble.

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