On Monday, a devastating collapse shook the Edmond Yazbeck Block D building in the Badran neighborhood of Mansourieh, in the Metn district. Families anxiously await updates as rescuers work tirelessly in precarious conditions at the collapse site.
It all started with a tremor that rattled the building at around 10 a.m., as survivors and relatives told L’Orient-Le Jour.
Cracks were discovered in a support post in the parking lot, and residents were trying to reach out to an engineer who had previously conducted foundation work during the summer.
However, no one could have anticipated the impending collapse, which took just a few seconds, according to a resident* who escaped unharmed. Her daughter also made it out safely because they were on an upper floor and managed to exit through a window.
As of Wednesday, six bodies, all women, were recovered. However, two women remain missing, and their loved ones say they are growing increasingly worried.
Among the missing is the mother of a young bride, who passed away in the accident.
The young bride, C., married just two months ago. “She was so happy!” said a friend, also a Mansourieh resident. “She was waiting for her papers to join her husband in Canada.”
Among the dead, was a teacher at a prominent secondary school and the mother of two children. She had just returned home from work and was likely in the parking lot at the time of the tragedy, friends and family said.
In a tragic twist of fate, among the bodies recovered, one belongs to one woman who recently rented an apartment in the building, planning to move there in case of a conflict with Israel, and that of her housekeeper.
A flooded basement
While the most pressing priority is to locate any survivors, the cause of the collapse is also an urgent issue.
One resident from a neighboring building has a theory.
“I was in my storage area in the shared parking lot, which serves all five buildings, including the one that collapsed,” said Jamil Eid, who resides in the adjacent building.
“After the heavy rains that night, the basement was flooded with several centimeters of water,” he said. “I suddenly felt a tremor and heard a loud thud; I hurried to my second-floor apartment and managed to get my wife out just in the nick of time.”
Eid added: “Debris from the collapsed building spread throughout my entire home, especially in the bedroom. If anyone had been there, they wouldn’t have survived.”
All the buildings on the block were evacuated Monday. In Building D, Eid’s building, dates back to the 1980s but its foundations were reinforced this summer, residents said.
“The buildings were compromised by the Beirut explosion and the earthquakes in February,” explained Eid. “Low-quality construction and overly wet soil weaken foundations,” Eid added.
Engineer Rached Sarkis, appointed by the Governor of Mount Lebanon to oversee the incident and who had already inspected the site after Monday’s collapse, said “water is the real enemy of the concrete that is already dilapidated.”
Holding out hope
Who’s to blame for this tragedy?
Nada Baroud, a resident of the building who wasn’t there when the incident occurred, told L’Orient-Le Jour that the municipality had not issued any warnings to the residents.
The municipality denied these claims. Municipal Council member Camille el-Hage explained to L’Orient-Le Jour that: “ A few months ago, when cracks were observed in the pillars of the parking lot, we commissioned a geological expert who wrote a report and recommended the evacuation of residents as well as reinforcement work.”
He adds that they recommended an expert, by the building residents commissioned another bureau to undertake foundation work during the summer.
In the meantime, the Civil Defense and Lebanese Red Cross teams persist in their search efforts.
Rescue workers are digging tunnels to access every possible space, avoiding heavy equipment usage to prevent further destabilization of the building. They are painstakingly removing debris by hand, stone by stone.
General Raymond Khattar, the Director General of Civil Defense, who oversees the rescue site, emphasized the challenging nature of their work due to the risk of additional collapses and the need to protect their rescue teams.
Khattar, however, told L’Orient-Le Jour that the search will persist as long as there is hope of finding survivors.
Meanwhile, the deadly collapse, which under ordinary circumstances would have grabbed headlines, is currently eclipsed by the latest clashes in southern Lebanon.
A neighbor in the building expressed the collective sentiment, saying, “We’re devastated by what’s happened to us, but we fear that we will all eventually be buried under Israeli bombs.”
*Multiple neighbors requested anonymity in order to protect their privacy.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that "Block E" of the apartment complex had collapsed. It was Block D that fell.