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Beirut explosion: Rescuers investigate ‘heartbeat in the rubble’


media captionRescuers remove rubble in the hope of finding someone alive

Rescuers in Beirut are searching through the rubble of a building amid reports a person could be alive – nearly one month after a powerful blast devastated the Lebanese capital.

Specialist sensor equipment has been brought to the Mar Mikhael area following unconfirmed reports that a heartbeat was detected.

More than 200 people died when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse detonated on 4 August.

Some 300,000 people were left homeless.

There has been outrage that so much hazardous material was stored unsafely in the port.

The Lebanese government’s resignation shortly afterwards failed to pacify protesters, who clashed with police in the city for several nights.

In a separate development, four containers with 4.3 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were found on Thursday outside Beirut’s seaport, the army said.

It said its specialists examined the containers, but gave no further details.

image captionThere are frequent calls for silence so that rescuers can listen for signs that someone is still alive

What’s the latest from the scene?

A crowd has gathered at the collapsed building where a rescue team from Chile is working. It is still unknown if a person is alive under the rubble.

The rescuers were passing the building on Wednesday night when their dog gave a sign there was a person alive inside.

On returning this morning the dog went to the same place and gave the same sign. The group then used a scanner to search for a heartbeat or a breath from within, and came with equipment to dig down into the rubble.

image captionPeople at the scene are hoping for a miraculous story of survival

The rescuers have split into teams of seven to move the debris piece by piece, due to the risk of further damage. Every so often there are calls for silence so the rescue team can listen intently,

the BBC’s Orla Guerin reports from the scene.

Red Cross staff have set up a tent with floodlights and supplies. Army, fire service and volunteer rescuers are on the scene, and they said it would take at least six hours to reach a potential survivor.

One of those waiting for news is a young man holding a Lebanese flag. He told the BBC that when he heard the news he could not stay at home.

The Chilean rescuers arrived in Lebanon on 1 September. According to a local source, they have highly sensitive equipment which can detect breathing at a depth of 15m (49ft).

As of now there is no confirmation that anyone is alive under the rubble – but some of those gathered here are daring to hope, our correspondent says.

Al-Jazeera’s correspondent Zeina Khodr tweeted

that “search teams say they detected a body and what could be a person with a heartbeat under the rubble”.

Mar Mikhael was one of the areas worst hit by the blast wave.

It is a historic neighbourhood that faces the port. It was famous for its night life before the disaster.

More on the explosion in Beirut


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