Rescue workers used cranes, bulldozers and their hands in search operations to reopen the building that collapsed in Beirut’s catastrophic blast earlier last month, hoping to survive after a pulsing signal was found.
In Lebanon, already plagued by a severe financial crisis and economic collapse, 191 people were killed, 6,000 wounded and wounded. A march and vigil, as well as a moment of silence, began at 6:08 pm, marking the most devastating single event in Lebanese history a month ago.
The search operation has been capturing the country for the past 24 hours in the historic Gemmoise neighborhoods of Beirut, a street that was once crowded with bars and restaurants. The idea of being able to survive a month later was supposed to be a miracle for people who followed the news on television.
The search operation began Thursday afternoon when a team of sniper dogs Topos from the Chilean search and rescue team spotted something while touring in Jemmoiz and ran towards the wreckage. Images of black and white 5-year-old dog Flash circulated on social media, describing him as a hero.
“As far as I can understand from my Chilean colleagues, the search area is very narrow,” said a French civil engineer who only identified himself as Emmanuel. He said the search area was not too deep and was just above the treasury of the ground floor.
“One person we are currently looking for” is not under much material, they are using large vacuum machines, excavators and more rescue workers, he said.
After hours of searching, work stopped shortly before midnight, apparently searching for the crane. It provoked outrage amid protests
Ninety-nine percent is nothing, but even if there is less than 1 percent hope, we should keep looking.– Civil defense activist
The Lebanese army asked the Chilean team to stop the search. In a reflection of the unstable division and public distrust of the authorities, some protesters wearing helmets began searching for the wreckage, while others called for cranes.
Members of the Lebanese civil defense team returned an hour after midnight and resumed work.
In response to criticism, the military issued a statement Friday saying the Chilean team had stopped work before midnight for fear of a wall collapsing on them. Army experts inspected the site and brought in two cranes to remove the wall, after which the search resumed.
On Friday morning, rescue workers slowly removed debris with their hands and shovels and dug a hole in the building debris. No matter how much they dug, the task of rescuing survivors under the rubble became more careful. Next, they brought a 360-degree camera placed at the end of a long stick and pushed it into a hole in the building.
On Thursday, the team used audio detection equipment for signals or heart rate and detected what a pulse of 18 to 19 beats per minute was. The origin of the pulsing signal is not immediately known, but it is enough to start a search of the ventic and raise new hope.
On Friday morning, according to comments made by a Chilean volunteer to the local TV station Al Jadeed, the beats dropped to seven per minute.
However, it is rare to find survivors when nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate burned in the port, which tore through Beirut a month after the August blast. In addition to the deadly toll and the score of those injured, thousands of homes were damaged.
“Ninety-nine percent are nothing, but with less than 1 percent hope, we should keep looking,” Civil Defense activist Yusuf Mala said Thursday. He said the work was very delicate.
The Chilean volunteer, however, said that their equipment detects breathing and heartbeat from humans rather than from animals and that it detects a human signal. A worker who identified himself as Francisco Lermonda, it was rare, but unheard of, for anyone to live for a month under the rubble.
The last few weeks have been very hot in Lebanon, with high humidity including the current heat wave.
Each time, the Chilean team asked people on the streets, including journalists watching the operation, to turn off their mobiles and remain silent for five minutes, avoiding distracting sounds detected by their devices.
Two days after the blast, a French rescue team and Lebanese civil defense volunteers examined the wreckage of the same building, where the ground floor was a bar. At the time, they had no reason to believe that there were any corpses or survivors left in this place.