At least two dozen people were killed by a building collapse in Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday night.
Rescuers are searching for bodies still trapped by debris around the former six-story edifice in the Ashrafiyeh district.
According to the Red Cross, another 12 people were injured when the structure fell unexpectedly. Another eight residents fled before it imploded.
Local officials said most of the casualties were foreign workers, including eight Sudanese, two Filipinos, two Egyptians and two Jordanians, according to the Associated Press.
Hope is diminishing that any survivors will be found beneath the rubble.
The BBC reported that while the cause of the collapse is unknown, the building was already in bad shape. Recent heavy rains and the impact of heavy construction in the vicinity of the building might have contributed to its demise.
A Syrian worker who witnessed the collapse told Agence France-Presse: We saw small pieces of stone falling down but no one paid any attention at the start. Then large chunks of stone started falling and people began screaming for everyone to get out. Within minutes, the building was on the floor.
One witnesses told local TV that when the building fell, it was like an earthquake.”
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Interior Minister Marwan Charbel visited the site Sunday evening.
Charbel told reporters that the building’s owner is being detained for questioning.
The Beirut government also agreed to compensate $20,000 to the family of each victim, as well as to each of the surviving families who had been living in the ruined building.
Bilal Hamad, the head of the Beirut municipality, asked all residents to notify government figures of any other buildings at risk of collapse.
We will immediately deal with concerns over old buildings, some of which are ticking time bombs, Hamad stated.
I ask all residents, whether tenants or owners, to inform the municipality if they have any doubts about the safety of their building.
However, Al Jazeera correspondent Zeina Khodr commented: People are already criticizing officials for negligence and demanding why local authorities had not inspected the buildings in order to have avoided this and other future tragedies.”