Signs of life detected under rubble a month after Beirut blast, says rescuer

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Rescue workers in Lebanon detected signs of life on Thursday in the rubble of a building in a residential area of Beirut that collapsed after a huge Aug. 4 explosion at a nearby port, rescue workers said.

Slideshow ( 4 images )

The state news agency NNA reported in the early evening that a team with a rescue dog had detected movement under a destroyed building in the Gemmayze area, one of the worst hit by the blast that killed about 190 people and injured 6,000 others.

“These (signs of breathing and pulse) along with the temperature sensor means there is a possibility of life,” rescue worker Eddy Bitar told reporters at the scene.

After several hours of digging through rubble, however, the operation was halted because the building was deemed too unsafe. Heavier machinery was required to help lift the rubble safely, a rescue worker said, and it could not be brought until morning.

“There’s a lot of danger to the team,” Michel el-Mur told reporters. “There are 10 of them up there, and we can’t take a risk on a single one of them.”

The team of rescue workers included volunteers who came from Chile, as well as Lebanese volunteers and members of the civil defense.

News of the rescue prompted crowds to form at the rescue site, who grew angry as rescue efforts were paused in a city desperate for hope.

“Shame! Shame! There’s a soul in there!” one woman shouted at Lebanese army members guarding the site.

Earlier in the evening, rescue workers in bright jackets clambered over the building, which had collapsed in the blast. It once housed a bar on its ground floor.

One rescue worker also carried a rescue dog onto the mound of smashed masonry.

Reporting by Yara Abinader and Beirut bureau; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Richard Pullin