Rescue Workers Hope To Find Survivor Of Beirut Blast, 1 Month Later

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Rescue workers dig through the rubble of a badly damaged building in Lebanon’s capital Beirut, searching for possible survivors one month after a massive blast at the nearby port.

Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images


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Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

Rescue workers dig through the rubble of a badly damaged building in Lebanon’s capital Beirut, searching for possible survivors one month after a massive blast at the nearby port.

Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

Rescue workers in Beirut are delicately exploring the rubble of a collapsed building where a specialist team says they detected signs of life — one month after the capital was devastated by a massive explosion at its port.

The rescue effort was launched after a sniffer dog named Flash signaled to his Chilean search and rescue team that someone might be alive under the concrete and debris.

Searchers say their sensors have confirmed the presence of a body — and on Friday, they asked crowds of people nearby to leave the area, fearing that the multitude of cellphone and other signals might interfere with the sensors. That measure came after teams asked everyone to silence their phones, to allow them to listen for signs of life, according to Timour Azhari of Al Jazeera.

Despite the slim chance of finding someone alive, the rescuers say it’s a chance worth pursuing. And for a moment, at least, the news of a rescue operation has changed the mood in Beirut, as people watch the operation in the neighborhood of Mar Mikhael, which sits on the other side of a large highway from where the explosion emanated.

Rescuers worked through the night to try to clear debris and get inside what remains of the old stone building. The news has captured the attention of the country, with local news channels following it minute by minute. Crowds have gathered at the site, watching and waiting. After all the destruction and sadness, Lebanese say, they need a miracle.

Some updates:
•Chilean team took a break but is now back to the rescue site.
•Their drone broke but a group donated a new one.
•Rescue team dug under the exact designated area but still did not find any bodies.
•Rescue team has a certain strategy that we need to trust. pic.twitter.com/Jv99ySnYJO

— Luna Safwan — لونا صفوان (@LunaSafwan) September 4, 2020

With Lebanon’s government and Beirut’s infrastructure still reeling from the catastrophe, parts of the rescue effort have been crowd-sourced, with the public helping to supply key equipment.

Melissa Fathallah, a 42-year-old protestor, tells NPR that volunteers put out a call for a crane late Thursday night, after search teams were forced to stop their work. There was concern that a nearby wall, already cracked, might collapse and endanger the lives of rescuers and any survivors.

«They said we need a crane and we can’t go in now,» Fathallah says. «The person in charge at that time says we’ll be back at 8 in the morning. This is a time sensitive matter. You have someone who still has a heartbeat. So we’re going to do the best we can to get to that heartbeat and to that person still alive.»

In the end, work was suspended for roughly two hours overnight so engineers could evaluate the risk, according to a military statement.

Searchers have also deployed a drone to inspect the building, according to the state-run National News Agency. A second drone was donated after the first one broke, journalist Luna Safwan reports.

Flash, the doggo that first detected human presence here. pic.twitter.com/7DL8zmq0Jm

— Timour Azhari (@timourazhari) September 4, 2020

It’s all part of an effort to locate what could be a survivor. Rescuers first detected a possible breathing cycle under the collapsed building. Further tests located a signal that they believe could be a weak human pulse.

The rescue workers are heroes for trying to find a survivor, Fathallah says. She adds, «The government needed to play its role and its part….. Our saying now is ‘we are the government.’ «

Lebanon’s president, Gen. Michel Aoun, is among those watching the rescue attempt. Aoun is urging the Civil Defense agency to keep up the search, his office said on Friday.

The Aug. 4 catastrophe killed nearly 200 people and damaged or destroyed thousands of buildings in Beirut. Until now, the official response has increasingly focused on recovering victims, as families and workers lost hope of finding more survivors.

  • Lebanon
  • Beirut

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