Beirut: A Lebanese brother and sister died after the roof of their old, shabby house collapsed on them due to nonstop heavy rains hitting the country since Sunday.
Abdul Rahman Kakheya, 25, and his 22-year-old sister, Rama, died in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
The engagement party of Abdul Rahman and his fiancé, Mariam, was scheduled for December 13.
The victims’ sister escaped with a shoulder injury after she miraculously pulled her way out of the house in Al Asafiri neighbourhood of Al Mina area.
After the deaths, angry protesters attacked the municipality headquarters in Tripoli Tuesday, smashing windows and setting a room on fire.
The attack in the country’s north came as heavy rainfall blocked roads and strained major infrastructure across Lebanon. The country is already roiled by anti-government protests since October 17 and a plunging economy.
Locals told the local LBC TV station that the collapse was the result of negligence, saying that the municipality has repeatedly ignored calls by the owners to renovate the old house. The victims’ neighbours and friends were quoted as claiming that the family had lodged a request to have their poorly-maintained house renovated, but Al Mina Municipality rejected this, saying that a special permission was required for this as the site was important from an archeological perspective.
“I cannot comment on whether or not the victims’ family approached Al Mina Municipality to have their house renovated. However, I can confirm that there are several properties in different neighbourhoods within our jurisdiction that have been categorised as archeological sites, and require written permissions to be renovated. There will be an investigation … God bless the victims’ souls,” an official at Al Mina Municipality told Gulf News over the phone.
A large military force was sent to the city to deal with the violence. Tripoli has witnessed some of the largest protests since nationwide demonstrations broke out. The protesters are demanding an end to the rule of the political elite that has run the country following the 1975-90 civil war.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said that the angry protesters damaged the office of the mayor as well as a municipality car that was parked outside the building. It added that the army later intervened and prevented further violence.
TV footage and videos and photos surfaced across social media showing heroic and humorous, yet tragic, interventions of citizens to save or assist drivers, passengers and schoolchildren who got stuck in rain ponds under bridges and in tunnels for more than half a day.
Residents paddled kayaks and some used their surfboards as taxis through flooded streets, as others tried to unclog sewage drains with wooden planks.
Meanwhile, many Lebanese hospitals may soon be unable to provide patients with life-saving surgery and urgent medical care amid the worsening financial crisis, an international rights group also warned on Tuesday.
For years, the Lebanese state has failed to pay its debts to public and private hospitals, making it more difficult for them to buy medical supplies and pay salaries.
Six members of Al Mina Municipality resigned following the tragic incident, and have called on the Municipality’s Head Abdul Kader Alameddine to resign as well.