Beirut explosion: Rescuers investigate ‘heartbeat in the rubble’



BBC.COM-image caption There are frequent calls for silence so that rescuers can listen for signs that someone is still alive

Rescuers in Beirut are continuing to search through the rubble of a building amid reports a person could be alive, one month after a massive blast devastated the Lebanese capital.

Specialist sensor equipment was to sent the Mar Mikhael area after unconfirmed reports that a heartbeat was detected.

The search was initially suspended overnight, but volunteers continued to work by hand, reports say.

More than 200 people died when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate detonated.

Some 300,000 people were left homeless by the blast on 4 August.

There has been outrage that so much hazardous material was stored unsafely in a warehouse in the city’s port, which lies close to many residential areas.

The Lebanese government’s resignation shortly afterwards failed to pacify protesters, who clashed with police in the city for several nights.

In a separate development, four containers with 4.3 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were found on Thursday outside Beirut’s seaport, the army said.

It said its specialists examined the containers, but gave no further details.

What’s the latest from the scene?

A crowd gathered at the building on Thursday as the rescue team from Chile began to work. It is still unknown if a person is alive under the rubble.

Rescue teams called off the search for the night as they lacked cranes to lift the rubble, amid fears that the building could collapse.

But local volunteers vowed to continue working by hand and a crane organised by private individuals has now arrived at the scene, according to journalists on the ground.

The team of Chilean rescuers have also reportedly returned to work.

The rescuers were passing the building on Wednesday night when their dog gave a sign there was a person alive inside.

On returning this morning the dog went to the same place and gave the same sign. The group then used a scanner to search for a heartbeat or a breath from within, and came with equipment to dig down into the rubble.


The rescuers split into teams of seven to move the debris piece by piece, due to the risk of further damage. Every so often there were calls for silence so the rescue team could listen intently, the BBC’s Orla Guerin reported from the scene.

Red Cross staff have set up a tent with floodlights and supplies. Army, fire service and volunteer rescuers are also on the scene.

The Chilean rescuers arrived in Lebanon on 1 September. According to a local source, they have highly sensitive equipment which can detect breathing at a depth of 15m (49ft).

As of now there is no confirmation that anyone is alive under the rubble – but some of those gathered at the scene dared to hope, our correspondent said.

Al-Jazeera’s correspondent Zeina Khodr tweeted that “search teams say they detected a body and what could be a person with a heartbeat under the rubble”.

Mar Mikhael was one of the areas worst hit by the blast wave.

It is a historic neighbourhood that faces the port. It was famous for its night life before the disaster.



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