Monday, 21 Sep 2020

Rescuers search Beirut rubble for second day after pulse detected

BEIRUT (REUTERS) – Rescue workers dug through the rubble of a Beirut building for a second day on Friday (Sept 4) in the hope of finding someone alive more than a month after it was destroyed by a huge port explosion that shattered the Lebanese capital.

But by early evening on Friday, rescue workers including a search and rescue team from Chile, had not found anyone in the debris in the Gemmayze area, where sensors had on Thursday detected signs of a pulse and breathing.

Gemmayze and the neighbouring Mar Mikhael district were among the areas hardest hit by the Aug 4 explosion at the nearby port, which was caused by massive amounts of badly stored ammonium nitrate.

The blast killed about 190 people and injured 6,000, in a nation already crippled by economic crisis. Church bells and the call to prayer from mosques sounded in Beirut to honour those killed a month earlier. The authorities also held ceremonies.

Citing its correspondent, Lebanese broadcaster MTV said the machine used to detect breathing had been moved three times without detecting breathing. A dog brought by the specialist Chilean team was also taking part in the effort.

Mechanical diggers lifted chunks of concrete and masonry as workers used shovels and their hands to dig. A crane and mechanical digger helped lift steel girders and other heavy debris from the ruins.

Residents gathered nearby, hoping someone could be found, while some said the government had not done enough to help.

“The government has been completely complacent, has been completely absent,” said Stephanie Bou Chedid, a volunteer from a group helping victims of the blast.

President Michel Aoun followed up on the operation in a phone call with the head of the civil defence, the presidency said.

Near the site, Mohamed Houry, 65, said he hoped someone was found alive but, even if only bodies were uncovered, “it’s important their families can find peace.”

The explosion ripped through a swathe of the capital, shattering districts such as Gemmayze, home to many old, traditional buildings, some of which crumbled in the shockwave.

The building being searched once housed a bar on its ground floor.

Rescuers used scanning equipment to create 3D images of the wreckage to try to locate anyone alive, local television images showed.

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