Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble a month after blast

Rescue workers in Beirut dig through debris after a possible human heartbeat was detected a month after an explosion killed nearly 200 people.

There is hope that a survivor can be found alive as members of a search and rescue team desperately ransacked the remains of a collapsed building with their hands.

A group of workers hauled up chunks of concrete and other broken masonry while digging in the residential neighborhood of Gemmayze after rescuers said on Thursday they discovered signs of a pulse and breathing, a witness told Reuters.

A tracking dog first discovered something in the debris that had been previously searched, and a team then used specialized sensor equipment to listen for a possible heartbeat and detected what might be a pulse of 18-19 beats per minute.

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The search was put on hold overnight, but volunteers kept digging with their hands.

The August 4 explosion in the nearby port of Beirut, caused by massive amounts of poorly stored ammonium nitrate, killed about 190 people and injured 6,000.

About 300,000 people were left homeless.

It tore through a strip of the capital and destroyed districts such as Gemmayze, home to many old, traditional buildings, some of which collapsed in the shock wave.

Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble a month after blast

Everyone who was still under the rubble was thought to be dead, given the amount of time that has passed and the very hot weather of the past few weeks.

But there was new hope for a miracle after a possible heartbeat was detected under the collapsed building in Gemmayze.

The rescue team consisted of volunteers from Chile, as well as Lebanese volunteers and members of the civil defense.

The building where the search was carried out once housed a bar on the ground floor.

Rescue worker Eddy Bitar said on the spot Thursday, “These (signs of breathing and pulse) along with the temperature sensor mean there is a possibility of life.”

However, after several hours of digging through rubble, the operation was halted because the building was deemed too unsafe.

Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble a month after blast

Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble a month after blast

Heavier machines were needed to safely lift the debris, one rescuer said, and it could not be delivered until Friday morning.

Michel el-Mur said: “There is a lot of danger for the team.

“There are 10 up there, and we can’t risk any of them.”

News of the rescue prompted crowds to form at the rescue site, who became angry when rescue efforts were interrupted in a town desperate for hope.

“Too bad! Too bad! There is a soul in it!” a woman shouted at Lebanese soldiers guarding the site.


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