BEIRUT (Al Jazeera) – Rescue workers digging through the rubble of a Beirut building for the third day said there was no longer hope of finding someone alive more than a month after a huge port explosion shattered Lebanon’s capital.
About 50 rescue workers and volunteers, including a specialist team from Chile, had been working for three days to locate any survivors after sensors on Thursday detected signs of breathing and heat.
"Technically speaking, there are no signs of life inside the building,” Francisco Lermanda, the head of volunteer rescue group Topos Chile, said in a news conference on Saturday evening, adding that rescuers had combed 95 percent of the building.
The signs of life picked up by their sensitive equipment in the past two days, Lermanda said, were the breaths of fellow rescuers who were already inside the building. He said efforts would now focus on clearing the rubble and finding remains.
"We never stop with even 1 percent of hope,” Lermanda said. "We never stop until the job is done.”
The rescue efforts had dominated local and social media for days, as the Lebanese were transfixed, desperate for a miracle. But none came.
But even the faint hope of a miracle caught the imagination of a country already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
"I was not aware I needed a miracle that much. Please God, give Beirut this miracle it deserves,” said Selim Mourad, a 32-year-old filmmaker.
The August 4 blast killed nearly 200 people, injured 6,000 more, and devastated whole neighborhoods. One month on, seven people are still listed as missing.
The authorities held ceremonies on Friday to mark a month since the explosion tore into the city.