‘Signs of life’ under Beirut rubble one month after explosion

A Chilean rescue team said it detected signs of life underneath the rubble of a building that collapsed in the massive explosion that tore through Beirut one month ago.

A member of the TOPOS CHILE rescue team told Al Jazeera that, using a scanning machine, it discovered signs of a pulse and breathing near the ground floor of the collapsed building.

He said it most likely belonged to a child, adding that the team also found the presence of at least one body.

The August 4 explosion, that killed 191 people and injured¬†more than 6,000, destroyed much of Lebanon’s capital.

The Chilean team had been visiting streets in the capital as part of a mission to secure buildings before the reconstruction phase when one of their search dogs ran towards a building and alerted them of human presence, Akram Nehme, member of the Achrafieh 2020 NGO that helped bring TOPOS CHILE to Beirut, told Al Jazeera.

Edward Bitar, a member of NGO Live Love Lebanon working with TOPOS CHILE in Lebanon, said they had detected 18 breath cycles per minute emanating from under the rubble using the sensor.

“We are trying to keep hopes low. If someone is found, it would be a miracle,” said Bitar.

Looking for life

Bitar said the owner of the building had attested to the fact that no one was inside.

But a number of people on the scene said they had alerted security forces of the smell of decomposition emanating from the building in the days after the blast, adding that security forces did not search the rubble.

Official search-and-rescue efforts have long-since been called off.

Thursday’s volunteer-led effort started in the morning and continued into Friday morning. The team removed the rubble of the building – stone by stone – with help from Lebanese climbers, firefighters and civil defence.

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