No signs of life have been found in the rubble of a building in Beirut, despite earlier hopes that a survivor could be found.
The search began on Thursday afternoon after a sniffer dog detected something in the Gemmayze area of the Lebanese capital.
Audio detection equipment had detected a pulse of 18 to 19 beats per minute, sparking hope someone could be alive.
Lebanese engineer Riyad al Asaad says all 3 ceilings & the stairwell are cleared and all that’s left is to clear rubble on the pavement but have not found any body. Expects to clear everything tonight or tomorrow morning. #Beirut pic.twitter.com/66hXC1xKjE
— Zein Ja’far (@skyzein) September 5, 2020
However, on Friday morning, it was reported that the signal had decreased to seven.
Rescuers had said it suggested someone could be alive or in a coma – or it could just be an object emitting a signal.
Around 50 rescue workers and volunteers, including a specialist team from Chile, continued to dig through the rubble for a third day on Saturday.
They narrowed their search, vowing to carry on, despite there being only a small chance of finding a survivor.
They used thermal imaging and scanning equipment as rescue teams removed debris, digging with their hands and shovels, careful not to cause further injury to any survivors.
“Always in search operations like this, you can neither lose hope nor absolutely say there is hope,” said George Abou Moussa, director of operations in Lebanon’s civil defence.
Almost 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate set off the explosion that tore through Beirut on 4 August in one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts ever recorded.
It killed about 190 people, injured 6,000, and devastated whole neighbourhoods.
The building the searchers were focused on is between the residential districts of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael, which were among the hardest hit by the blast.
The area is home to many old buildings that crumbled as the shockwave ripped through, and the search had to be halted briefly on Thursday due to concerns about the unstable structure.
It was inspected by the army and two cranes were brought in so it could be removed.
Ceremonies were held on Friday to mark a month since the explosion tore into a city already reeling from a crippling economic crisis.
Days after last month’s blast, more than 20 containers of ammonium nitrate were found at the port and moved to safe locations.
On Thursday, the army said it had found another 4.35 tonnes of the chemical compound in four containers near the port, which are being investigated.
A total of 25 people have being detained over the explosion, most of them port or customs officials.