Beirut explosion: Rescuers investigate ‘heartbeat in the rubble’

There are frequent calls for silence so that rescuers can listen for signs that someone is still alive


Rescuers in Beirut have been searching through the rubble of a building amid reports a person could be alive – nearly one month after a powerful blast devastated the Lebanese capital.

Specialist sensor equipment was to the Mar Mikhael area following unconfirmed reports that a heartbeat was detected.Teams have now halted the search until the morning.More than 200 people died when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse detonated on 4 August.Some 300,000 people were left homeless.

There has been outrage that so much hazardous material was stored unsafely in the port.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 earlier today as the rescue team from Chile got to work. It is still unknown if a person is alive under the rubble.Rescue teams have now called off the search for the night as they do not have cranes to lift the rubble and there are fears the building could collapse. They will continue in the morning.Some people at the scene reportedly vowed to find a crane and keep going themselves through the night.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.

People at the scene are hoping for a miraculous story of survival

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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