BEIRUT: Cypriot rescue teams search for survivors at ground zero

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Two Cypriot rescue teams with specially trained dogs have begun searching through the rubble for survivors trapped under collapsed buildings in Beirut’s ‘ground zero’ following a massive blast.

The two teams, five members of the Police Emergency Response Unit (MMAD) and five from the Disaster Emergency Response Unit (EMAK), were sent in on Wednesday on two police helicopters from Cyprus.

They were not allowed to join the international rescue effort until they had received the results of a coronavirus test, they had undergone in Lebanon.

Fire services spokesman Andreas Kettis said the teams and eight rescue dogs started working at 7 am on Friday morning alongside a team from Qatar exactly where the explosion happened.

He said that the Cypriot teams will be scanning the area with their rescue dogs and report to the Qatari team should they find someone trapped beneath the rubble.

“You cannot imagine how bad the situation is in Beirut,” said Kettis.

“There is melted iron and concrete everywhere, which makes it difficult for the rescue teams to work.”

Acknowledging that chances of finding more survivors were quickly fading, Kettis said the team has already surveyed the area around ground zero while remaining positive.

“Yesterday, the teams found a baby alive under the rubble, so finding more survivors is certainly a possibility.”

Tuesday’s blast was recorded as Beirut’s deadliest peace-time explosion, caused after 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored near the port detonated, killing at least 137 people, injuring 5000, and leaving some 300,000 homeless.