BEIRUT: A horrific car crash in south Lebanon Monday caused the deaths of five members of the same family who were out in search of petrol, as weeks of fuel shortages have brought havoc to the country’s roads.
Along the Jiyyeh-Sidon highway Monday afternoon, Fatima Kobeissi, 38, and her four daughters, Zahraa 17, Aya 12, and 7-year-old twins Tia and Leah, left home to find petrol for their car in preparation for the imminent return of their father from abroad.
Hussein Huwaili was preparing to return to Lebanon Wednesday for medical treatment after four months working in Liberia when he was told of the tragic news that his entire family had been killed in a traffic accident.
The news was widely shared on social media across Lebanon, along with images of the mother and four daughters, with many expressing shock and sorrow.
Also in the car at the time of the crash was a cousin of the family, 22-year-old Hussein al-Zein, who together with his relatives was attempting to fill up his car with gasoline in preparation to drive to Beirut Airport Wednesday to pick up the children’s father. Al-Zein was still in hospital Tuesday in critical condition.
The uncle of the family, Qassem Huwaili said the crash occurred from a car driving in the opposite direction of the traffic up the highway, trying to reach the gas station where the family, along with many other cars, were queuing.
“At that point the crash happened, and five cars collided with each other,” Huwaili told The Daily Star. The car carrying his brother’s family was severely damaged, having been crushed by a vehicle in front and a truck from behind, he revealed.
Eyewitnesses reported that the scene was reminiscent of a “battlefield” with ambulances and paramedics rushing to rescue the injured and transport the victims to hospitals in Mazboun and Siblin.
The family’s uncle said that the economic crisis in Lebanon had led his brother to travel to Liberia to search for work to support the family. While he was there he contracted malaria, and had to come back to Lebanon to be treated.
A mourning ceremony was held in Al-Sharqiya, the mother’s hometown, where it was decided the family would be buried in the cemetery Wednesday, with their father expected to arrive early that morning at Beirut Airport.
Over the last month, residents have been grappling with a severe shortage of fuel across Lebanon, which has in turn caused daily mayhem to roads with hourlong queues at gas stations, clogging up highways and bringing traffic to a standstill.
Lebanon’s deep economic crisis has left the Central Bank struggling to subsidize fuel imports amid a scarcity of US dollars, forcing gas stations to close or ration fuel supplies. In some areas there have been reports of fights and armed altercations with tensions rising as fed-up motorists become desperate to access gasoline.