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Beirut explosion: Hopes fade in search for survivor

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  • Beirut port explosion

media captionRescuers remove rubble in the hope of finding someone alive

Hopes are fading in Beirut that anyone will be found beneath the rubble of a building destroyed in last month’s explosion, following two days of search efforts.

Rescue workers began looking through the debris after sensor equipment detected possible signs of life.

But Chilean rescuers ended a second day of searching without any results.

Beirut held a minute’s silence on Friday to mark a month since the explosion, which killed almost 200.

Thousands more were injured by the blast, which happened when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate detonated.

  • How long can survivors last under rubble?

There has been outrage that so much hazardous material was stored unsafely in a warehouse in the city’s port, 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.

One month on, seven people are still missing, according to Lebanese officials.

What’s happening with the search?

Search efforts got under way after a rescue team from Chile said it had detected possible signs of life under a destroyed building located between the residential districts of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael.

The rescuers were walking through the area on Wednesday night when their sniffer dog – trained to find bodies – gave a sign that there was a person inside. When they returned on Thursday, the dog went to the same place and gave the same sign. Specialist sensor equipment then detected a pulsing signal in the area.

The head of the Chilean rescue team, Francisco Lermanda, told reporters on Friday that slow breathing had been detected under the rubble at a depth of 3m (9.8ft).

Rescuers dug three tunnels to try to reach the spot where the pulse was detected, he said.

But, he added, it was too soon to know if anyone was “alive or dead” beneath the debris.

Earlier on Friday, rescue co-ordinator Nicholas Saade told the AFP news agency that the pulse had slowed significantly since the previous day. Reporters at the scene said the most recent test detected no signals at all.

Crowds have been gathering to watch the search efforts, hoping for a miracle.

Mohamed Houry told Reuters he hoped someone was alive but, even if only bodies were uncovered, “it’s important their families can find peace”.

Onlookers

image captionPeople at the scene have been hoping for a miraculous story of survival

The Chilean team suspended their search on Friday evening, without locating a survivor or a body. They said they would return in the morning.

A Lebanese team was carrying on with the search, according to local reporters.

The Chilean rescuers are from the renowned Los Topos aid organisation, which took part in the 2010 rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped 700m (2,300ft) underground for more than two months. In the same year, the Chilean team also rescued a survivor after 27 days following a devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Washington Post reported.

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