How the search for Eleni brought three strangers together

When the Beirut blast destroyed a tower block many people were missing, including an Ethiopian woman who lived there.

With the help of two Lebanese people she’d never met, and Instagram, she was found and reunited with her family in Addis Ababa.

The building collapsed after an explosion, caused by improper storage of ammonium nitrate, killing more than 200 people, wounding thousands, and devastating swathes of Beirut.

Eleni Balcha was working as a maid for a woman in the block, but after the explosion her employer had no idea where she was.

Karim Kattouf, who lived near the building, decided to search for her, and reached out online, where he met Zara Issa, a Lebanese woman living in Ivory Coast.

Wanting to help in some way, she had started an Instagram account to centralise the search for missing people, and together they found Eleni.

Over Zoom, we bought the three of them together for the first time since the explosion.

Reported and produced by Reha Kansara.

Additional production by Yadeta Beranu.

Filming and production by Najib Deeb and Abiy Getahun.

Edited by Mark Sedgwick.

Executive produced by Marko Zoric.

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