Lebanese wait in vain for `Titanic' payout

When the Titanic sank in April 1912, the tiny Roman Orthodox village of Kfar Mishki, dirt-poor in the cold hills of the lower Bekaa valley, went into mourning. At least 13 of its illiterate villagers went down with the ship, most of them kneeling in their steerage accommodation, vainly praying.

When the court of inquiry condemned Captain Smith and the courts of Britain and America handed out compensation, no one knew where Kfar Mishki was, let alone the names of those villagers who had drowned. In the dying Ottoman empire - Lebanon was then part of Syria - there were no courts to help the destitute peasants of the Bekaa valley.

It was a writer on the Beirut An Nahar daily who said last week that it was time they were paid for the loss of their loved ones. Why, he asked, should they be deprived of money just because the peasants of Kfar Mishki boarded the Titanic in France and never had their names registered in the liner's passenger manifest? Maybe, he wrote - prompted by news of the current Titanic exhibition in London - they should commence litigation against insurers of the White Star Line's most infamous ship.

Kfar Mishki is almost as impoverished today as in 1912, when famine and unemployment drove thousands of Lebanese to the Americas. Fawziah el-Haj, 84, recalls how her mother told her of her father Mansour's death. "My mother told me of how she pulled out her hair in grief when they brought the news. We were none of us paid anything. No one cared."

Mrs el-Haj lives in a draughty old house on a hill, 40 yards from the home of Nuallah Nasrallah, nephew of the only survivor of the Titanic in Kfar Mishki. "My aunt's name was Zeid Daher Nasrallah and she didn't stay below deck. She was a very tough woman. She told me how when the ship went down, she jumped in the sea and held on to a plank of wood until she was rescued." Zeid had left her husband and children behind in Kfar Mishki. She returned to the village, then went to Canada to make a small fortune before returning to die in the Bekaa Valley in 1935.

Boutros Saiqalay is 100 and lost a cousin on the Titanic. Almost blind, he remembered the day his cousin Assef left for America - "on horseback for the three-day ride to Beirut, some of our relatives walking along with him" - and the names of other villagers who never returned. "Who will give us anything now? It was the worst disaster that ever befell us here. Assef was married just before he left - I went to the wedding - and his pregnant wife was left with nothing."

The list of Titanic survivors published in the Times in April 1912 clearly names a "Miss Adelia Naseraell (Nasser)" among the survivors - "Adelia" a corruption of "Daher" and "Naseraell" of Nassrallah, presumably because she could not write her own name - but the Kfar Mishki dead are unlisted. Jenny Waite, a curator at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, is not surprised. "There were two passenger manifests for the Titanic and they were known to be inaccurate, especially for those passengers who boarded the ship at Cherbourg," she said. "If someone wasn't on the list and died when it went down, it would be difficult to identify them. The Titanic was insured with Lloyd's and the claim on the hull was settled immediately. White Star Line would have paid compensation to passengers in the courts but the White Star Line's files were destroyed when it was merged with Cunard in the 1930s."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living