Rescuers in Beirut have found “no sign of life” in the rubble of a building destroyed in last month’s massive port explosion, dashing hopes that someone could be rescued alive.
A sensor machine detected possible signs of life on Thursday, but after clearing 95% of the rubble workers have not found the source of the reading.
About 50 volunteers, including a team from Chile, have been at the scene. The blast killed about 190 people and left thousands of others injured.
Crowds gathered at the building located between the residential districts of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael, hoping for a miracle.
What’s the latest with the search?
A team of rescuers from Chile were walking through the area on Wednesday night when their sniffer dog gave a sign that there was a person inside.
When they returned on Thursday, the dog again gave the same signal. Specialist sensor equipment then detected a pulsing signal in the area.
Breathing was detected under the rubble at a depth of 3m (9.8ft). They continued to remove the rubble on Saturday, clearing much of it by hand.
However they have still not located the source of the sensor reading.
In a news conference on Saturday, Francisco Lermanda, head of volunteer rescue group Topos Chile, said: “Technically speaking, there are no signs of life.” He told reporters that signs of life recorded over the past two days were the breaths of volunteers working inside the building.
Efforts will now focus on clearing the rubble and looking for remains, he said. “We never stop with even one percent of hope,” he said. “We never stop until the job is done”.
The Chilean rescuers took part in the 2010 rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped 700m underground for more than two months.
Civil defence officer Qassem Khatersaid his team would not give up. “We are not leaving the site until we’ve finished going through the rubble, even if a new building collapse threatens,” he said.
According to Lebanese officials, seven people are still missing following the blast. Beirut held a minute’s silence on Friday, marking a month since the explosion which happened when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate detonated.