Blast Injuries Kill 'a Queen of Beirut'

Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane was among Lebanon's most prominent philanthropists
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 1, 2020 2:27 PM CDT
Woman in Her Palace Home During Beirut Blast Has Died
A crooked painting hangs on the wall of the Sursock Palace, heavily damaged after the explosion in the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

One of Lebanon's most prominent philanthropists and a pioneer defender of the country's heritage, Lady Yvonne Sursock Cochrane, has died from injuries she suffered in the massive Aug. 4 explosion that ripped through Beirut. She was 98. The family said Lady Cochrane passed away on Monday from her injuries. She was at home, at her family’s Sursock Palace, one of Beirut's landmarks, when the explosion happened last month. The palace, a storied building that took 20 years to restore after the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, was badly damaged in the blast. Lady Cochrane was born in Beirut on May 18, 1922. She is a member of the wealthy Sursock Greek Orthodox family, which was originally from the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, and settled in Beirut in the 18th century, reports the AP. She married Sir Desmond Cochrane in 1946.

In 1960, she set up the Association for Protecting Natural Sites and Old Buildings in Lebanon, which campaigned to preserve historic buildings. Lady Cochrane was concerned about the demise of Beirut's architectural wealth and its mismanagement by the state. She fought against the destruction of old houses and real estate developers who sought to change the character of Beirut. "Beirut lives by the wind that comes from the sea," she said in a 2008 interview, criticizing the reconstruction of downtown Beirut, including building skyscrapers at the seafront, after the end of the civil war. She lamented what she described as Beirut failing to be the jewel of the Middle East because of bad administration, deteriorating environment, and the region's recurrent bouts of violence. Britain's Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling called her "a queen of Beirut."

(More obituary stories.)

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