Exactly one month after the huge explosion in Beirut, rescue workers search the rubble one more time with all their might. A sign of life has been found. Sensors have picked up the beating of a human heart.
It gives the inhabitants of the Lebanese capital hope for a small miracle. A bright spot in the aftermath of a disaster in which 191 people died and thousands were injured, on top of a deep economic and political crisis.
“My stomach is turning with hope, madness, or whatever,” says one of the bystanders at the rescue:
The unexpected rescue operation began on Thursday. Rescue dog Flash smells something near the rubble in the historic Mar Mikhael district. He is walking towards it and the Chilean team of volunteer rescue workers takes his observation seriously. A special sensor in the collapsed building measures a heartbeat and eighteen to nineteen breaths per minute.
A volunteer from the team says the sensor only picks up the beating of a human heart or human breath. So, according to him, it’s a person. Exceptional as it may be, he says it’s not unprecedented for someone to survive under the rubble for so long.
Flash, who wears red shoes to protect his paws, is proclaimed a hero on social media. “When a dog does a better job than the whole government of Lebanon”, Lebanese journalist Luna Safwan twitters. A cartoonist honors Flash with a drawing of his heroic deed.
Distrust of the authorities reaches boiling point just before midnight. The rescuers stop searching. Demonstrators claim the army has asked the Chileans to suspend the search. “Where’s your conscience?”, a female protester calls for a soldier. Some of the protesters decide to put on their own helmets and start searching with their bare hands under the rubble.
The army command says that a short break will be taken to prevent a wall from collapsing further. According to military specialists the building is an immediate danger. After the wall is removed, the search is resumed.
“1 percent chance
On Friday morning the observed breathing has dropped to seven per minute, says a volunteer to a local TV station. “The chance is 99 percent that we’re not going to find anything, but even if there’s only 1 percent chance, we have to keep looking,” another rescue worker says.
Time is running out, but the deeper the team digs, the slower and more careful that happens. To protect potential survivors. With a 360-degree camera, rescue workers look under the stone. They see no sign of human life where they’re looking. But the search continues.