Beirut search enters third day as hopes fade of finding survivor under rubble

Rescue workers are continuing to dig through the rubble of a building in Beirut, despite hopes fading that someone might be found alive, a month after the huge port explosion. 

A team of 50 workers and volunteers, including specialists from Chile, are doing much of the digging by hand on the third full day of the desperate search, prompted by a sensor apparently detecting signs of life under the wreckage. 

‘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, said. ‘So far, we have found nothing.’

On Wednesday night, a sniffer dog 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 August 4 blast, rescue teams took up the search.

Despite removing piles of masonry, search teams have yet to find the source of the sensor reading but said they would continue while there was a small chance of finding a survivor.

There have since been unconfirmed reports on social media that search teams have run further tests and detected a heartbeat again, Mail Online reports.

Chilean specialist Walter Munoz has put the chances of finding someone still alive at ‘2%.’

The blast killed about 190 people, injured 6,000 more and devastated whole neighbourhoods. Seven people are still listed as missing.

Ceremonies and a minutes silence were held on Friday to mark a month since the explosion tore into a city already reeling from a crippling economic crisis.

Despite officials down-playing the chances of anyone surviving so long beneath the rubble, the rescue efforts have dominated local and social media, as the Lebanese people were transfixed, desperate for some good news.

Work has been slow, rescue workers said, as the badly damaged building was at risk of collapse.

‘The building is really crumbling, it’s scary and there’s a lot of danger to the team,’ Mr Abou Moussa said.

Workers are using shovels and their hands to dig, while mechanical diggers and a crane lifts heavy debris.

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.

Emmanuel Durand, a French civil engineer who was training local university students, volunteered his services and was working with the rescuers to monitor the structure.

Scanning the building with high-precision lasers, Durand said his team had so far not found any signs of movement.

‘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.

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