Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble 30 days after blast

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Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble 30 days after blast

Rescuers in Beirut are digging through rubble after a possible human heartbeat was detected a month after an explosion killed almost 200 people.

There are hopes a survivor could be found alive as members of a search and rescue team desperately searched the remains of a collapsed building with their hands.

A group of workers pulled up chunks of concrete and other broken masonry as they dug down in the residential district of Gemmayze after rescue workers said on Thursday they had detected signs of a pulse and breathing, a witness told Reuters.

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

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The search was suspended overnight, but volunteers continued to dig with their hands.

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

Some 300,000 people were left homeless.

It ripped through a swathe of the capital, smashing up districts such as Gemmayze, home to many old, traditional buildings, some of which collapsed in the shockwave.

Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble 30 days after blast 1

It was thought that everyone who was still trapped under rubble was dead, given the amount of time that has passed and very hot weather in recent weeks.

But there were fresh hopes of a miracle after a possible heartbeat was detected under the collapsed building in Gemmayze.

The team of rescue workers included volunteers from Chile, as well as Lebanese volunteers and members of the civil defence.

The building where the search was being conducted had once housed a bar on its ground floor.

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

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

Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble 30 days after blast 2

Beirut explosion rescuers detect 'heartbeat' under rubble 30 days after blast 3

Heavier machinery was required to help lift the rubble safely, a rescue worker said, and it could not be brought until Friday morning.

Michel el-Mur said: “There’s a lot of danger to the team.

“There are 10 of them up there, and we can’t take a risk on a single one of them.”

News of the rescue prompted crowds to form at the rescue site, who grew angry as rescue efforts were paused in a city desperate for hope.

“Shame! Shame! There’s a soul in there!” one woman shouted at Lebanese army members guarding the site.

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