1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

'No sign of life' under Beirut blast rubble, say rescuers

September 6, 2020

A team of rescue workers in search for Beirut blast survivors has found no sign of life beneath the building that collapsed in last month's explosion. Rescuers would now focus on clearing the rubble and finding remains.

Rescuers search at the site of a collapsed building in Beirut
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/H. Ammar

A Chilean rescue team in Beirut said on Saturday that there was no longer any sign of life underneath a building that collapsed in last month's explosion, ending a three-day search for missing survivors.

About 50 rescue workers and volunteers combed through most of the collapsed building in the city's heavily damaged Gemmayzeh neighborhood.

The search for survivors began after a sniffer dog deployed by the rescue team on Wednesday detected a scent beneath the collapsed building.

The next day, high-tech sensors confirmed an apparent pulse beneath the rubble, raising hopes of a miracle among the Lebanese.

"Sadly, today we can say that technically we have no sign of life inside the building," said Francesco Lermanda, head of the volunteer group Topos Chile.

Read moreFrance’s Macron urges political reform after new Lebanon PM named

"We have checked 95% of the building, and the only part that is missing is the sidewalk, which is also full of rubble," Lermanda said late Saturday. "There could be a dead body, but we haven't found it."

He said two rescuers went down a final tunnel to check the last air pocket where there could possibly be any survivors but found nobody there.

The sensors may have picked up breaths of fellow rescuers already inside the building, Lermanda said, adding that the efforts would now focus on clearing the rubble and finding remains.

"We never stop with even 1% of hope (of finding a body)," he said. "We never stop until the job is done."

'It's scary'

The area where the search was being carried out was among the hardest hit by the blast and home to many old buildings that were crumbled by the shockwaves.

Rescue workers said the search had to go at a slow pace since the damaged building was at risk of complete collapse. "The building is really crumbling, it's scary and there's a lot of danger to the team," said Abou Moussa, head of operations at the Lebanese civil defence agency.

Read moreToxic gas released after Beirut explosion, residents ask how bad is it?

Beirut was struck by a devastating explosion that ripped through the city on August 4, killing some 190 people and injuring 6,000 others, making it the country's worst peacetime disaster. The country observed a minute's silence for the dead on Friday.

The blast was triggered by huge quantity of ammonium nitrate poorly stored in a warehouse at the city's port.

Rescuers search at the site of a collapsed building in Beirut
Search and rescue operations were carried out at the collapsed building in Beirut's heavily damaged Gemmayzeh neighborhoodImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/H. Ammar

Lebanon is already facing its worst economic crisis in decades and is reeling under the coronavirus pandemic which has made matters worse.

Experts from Chile, France, and the United States have offered Lebanon help as the country lacks the tools and expertise to handle advanced search and rescue operations.

adi/sri (AFP, Reuters, dpa)