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Search at collapsed building site called off, 27 dead - The Daily Star

Written By Ivan Kolev on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | 4:41 PM

BEIRUT: The death toll from Sunday’s building collapse in Beirut stands at 27 and search operations have ended, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Tuesday.

"This morning, we called off the rescue operation and rescue vehicles have been pulled out,” Charbel told the Kataeb-run Voice of Lebanon.

He said the deaths included 11 Lebanese and 16 foreigners.

Charbel said five Lebanese and seven foreigners were among the 12 tenants who were pulled out alive from the rubble.

The seven-story building collapsed at about 5 p.m. Sunday in the Fassouh neighborhood of Ashrafieh.

Charbel said that no more people were believed to be missing under the rubble. Reports that a number of foreigners were missing turned out to be inaccurate.

The building had been home to more than 20 Sudanese, as well as people from the Philippines, Egypt and Jordan.

While they had not anticipated such a sudden collapse, neighbors and residents of the building who had not been inside said Monday there had been warning signs of structural problems weeks earlier.

According to several accounts, a loud noise had been heard behind the building on New Year’s Eve, prompting the owner to place metal support poles on both sides of the building.

Residents said it had been too difficult for them to move elsewhere and blamed the owner, Michel Saadeh, for not taking the appropriate measures to address the issue.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati established a committee Monday to investigate the cause of the collapse as Beirut Prosecutor George Karam launched a probe into the incident.

Judicial sources told The Daily Star Tuesday that residents who survived the collapse due to their presence outside the building were being investigated, in order to determine whether Saadeh had informed them of the risks the building faced.

The sources also said that Judge Raja Abi Nader has been tasked with inspecting buildings adjacent to one that was leveled for safety reasons.

A funeral procession will be held Tuesday for the Lebanese victims as Ashrafieh observes a day of mourning.

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