Hopes of miracle fade in search for Beirut blast survivor

Hopes of miracle fade in search for Beirut blast survivor

Rescue workers dig through the rubble of a badly damaged building in Lebanon's capital Beirut
Rescue workers dig through the rubble of a badly damaged building in Lebanon's capital Beirut in search of a possible survivor from a mega-blast at the adjacent port one month ago, after scanners detected a pulse, on September 4, 2020 AFP/JOSEPH EID

BEIRUT: Rescue teams kept up their search for survivors in Beirut Saturday (Sep 5) even as hopes raised by sensor readings of a pulse beneath the rubble of last month's blast began to fade.

The cataclysmic Aug 4 explosion in the port of Beirut killed at least 191 people, making it Lebanon's deadliest peacetime disaster. One month on, seven people are still listed as missing.

READ: Signs of life detected under rubble a month after Beirut blast, says rescuer

On Wednesday night, a sniffer dog deployed by Chilean rescuers detected a scent beneath a collapsed building in the heavily damaged Gemmayzeh neighbourhood adjacent to the port.

High-tech sensors confirmed an apparent heartbeat and, a full month after the Aug 4 blast, rescue teams took up the search.

But despite removing piles of masonry, they have yet to find the source of the sensor reading.

A Chilean rescue worker pets a sniffer dog as others dig through the rubble of a badly damaged
A Chilean rescue worker pets a sniffer dog as others dig through the rubble of a badly damaged building in Lebanon's capital Beirut AFP/JOSEPH EID

"Search operations have been going on since the day before yesterday but the chances are very low," the civil defence agency's operations director, George Abou Moussa, told AFP.

"So far, we have found nothing."

READ: Blast-hit Beirut begins timid recovery

Saturday was the search teams' third straight day of digging, much of it by hand.

"We are not leaving the site until we've finished going through the rubble, even if a new building collapse threatens," said civil defence officer Qassem Khater.

Chilean specialist Walter Munoz put the chances of finding a survivor at "2 per cent".

Lebanese officials had played down the chances of anyone surviving so long beneath the rubble.

But even the faint hope of a miracle caught the imagination of a country already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and the country's worst economic crisis in decades.

"I was not aware I needed a miracle that much. Please God, give Beirut this miracle it deserves," said Selim Mourad, a 32-year-old filmmaker.

Lebanon lacks the tools and expertise to handle advanced search and rescue operations, so they have been supported by experts from Chile, France and the Unites States.

The Chileans, in particular, have been praised as heroes by many Lebanese on social media, who have compared their expertise with the lacklustre performance of what they see as an absent state.

The country observed a minute's silence for the dead on Friday.

Source: AFP/aa

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