09/04/2020, 17.05
LEBANON
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Heartbeats under the rubble of Beirut

by Pierre Balanian

Chilean rescuers and their dog found signs of the presence of "lives" under some rubble, 29 days after the explosions. Many are sceptical, but many others hope. Rubble is being removed hoping for a miracle. AsiaNews continues its campaign to “Help devastated Beirut”.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – A month after explosions devastated the Port of Beirut, people continue to search amid the rubble hoping to pull out someone still alive after a search dog working with a group Chilean rescuers picked up some signs yesterday that there might be someone alive under a collapsed building in Mar Mikhaël, a mostly Christian neighbourhood in Beirut.

Using thermal and ultrasound scanners, the Chilean rescuers detected signs of breathing and a pulse. Thermal images suggest the presence of two people: a lifeless adult on top of a second person, perhaps a child still alive in a wheelchair.

Speaking to AsiaNews, a Lebanese civil protection officer said that two people might under two floors, but not too deep in relation to the rescuers, perhaps under less than a metre of debris and rubble.

According to other sources, a laser telescopic device introduced this morning into the rubble did not detect any body. The detected pulse might be from animal, or even the vibrations of some a clock still working.

Some people are hoping for a miracle on the Day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon, set by Pope Francis for today, exemplified by the presence of Card Pietro Parolin in Beirut today.

However, many ordinary Lebanese and many doctors wonder how a human being could survive under a pile of rubble for at least 29 days, without food or water, with high summer temperatures and little oxygen.

Upon making their discovery, the Chilean rescuers informed Beirut Governor Marwan Aboud who announced that "two bodies" were found, perhaps "still alive" under the rubble. Quickly, the astonishing news spread around the country, especially via social media.

Television and radio broadcasters paid no attention to the rescue operation and continued to broadcast their regular series and talk shows. However, in a few hours, scores of people arrived at the site of the "discovery" to provide moral support for the Chilean and Lebanese rescuers.

The Lebanese army immediately cordoned off the area to calm angry bystanders protesting at the lack of action. But protests have continued. Political and religious leaders have stayed away so far.

"We asked for a crane, but they sent us nothing. They say none is available,” an army lieutenant said. Meanwhile, the scanners indicate that the heartbeats, perhaps of a baby, have gone from 18 per minute to two per minute in a few hours.

A woman (picture 3) who survived the explosions managed to find a crane on her own. But eventually, around 2 am, the search was called off.

Meanwhile, social media have been inundated by so much criticism that Lebanon’s new prime minister, Mustafa Diab, felt obligated to tweet a rebuttal, saying that he refused “to stop the search for victims under the rubble, especially if we have some hope that lives may be saved.”

After a loss of precious time, the race against time resumed today. For many Lebanese, Christians and Muslims, this is a divine sign, a message of renaissance for all.

In order to help the people of Beirut and Lebanon, as well as Caritas Lebanon, AsiaNews is launching a campaign to ‘Help devastated Beirut’. Those who want to contribute can make a donation to:

PIME Foundation:

- International Bank Account Number (IBAN): IT78C0306909606100000169898

- Bank Identifier Code (BIC): BCITITMM

- Reason for transfer: AN04 – HELP DEVASTATED BEIRUT

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