Hope fades to find survivor in rubble in Beirut

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Rescuers in Lebanon continued their search on Saturday in the ruins of a building in a stricken district of Beirut, where heartbeats had been detected this week.

A team of Chilean rescuers intervening in the Lebanese capital detected heartbeats on Wednesday evening under the rubble of a building thanks to a sniffer dog and thermal scanners. Hopes of finding survivors of the August 4 explosion have since faded.

It destroyed entire neighborhoods, killing at least 191 people and injuring more than 6,500 people. Seven people are still missing.

Despite the removal of a large amount of debris for three days, rescuers have still not been able to find the origin of these beats.

They continued after nightfall on Saturday night to clear away the rubble, most of it by hand.

Qassem Khater, a civil defense rescuer, explained to AFP in the morning that the operations were taking place in the ruins of the stairwell of the building.

“We are not going to leave the site before having finished the search under the rubble, even if the building threatens to collapse,” he assured.

But a few hours later, the engineer overseeing operations Riyadh al-Assad explained that several layers of debris had been removed, to no avail.

“We have reached the stairwell and there is nothing,” he lamented.

“The dog gave us hope, but it also highlighted the failings of the whole system. This building should have been cleared several weeks ago, ”he criticized.

Lebanon does not have the equipment or the expertise to carry out such search and rescue operations. Teams came from Chile, France and the United States to make up for this lack.

There was still debris to be removed from the stairs, but the operation seemed more complex than before.

Last hope

The director of operations for Lebanese Civil Defense, George Abou Moussa, estimated on Saturday morning that “the chances [étaient] very weak ”to find victims.

“We haven’t found anything so far,” he told AFP.

For his part, one of the Chilean rescuers, Walter Munoz, had told journalists that the hope of finding a survivor was “2%”.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told reporters on Thursday that there could be one or two bodies, and possibly even a survivor.

This announcement, a month after the apocalyptic explosion caused by several hundred tons of ammonium nitrate stored for years at the port without precautionary measures, aroused renewed hope and moved a large part of public opinion, still traumatized and in shock.

“This is our last pulse,” Beirut visual artist and actor Nasri Sayegh wrote on Facebook on Friday.

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