Lebanese and Chilean rescuers search in the rubble of a collapsed building after getting signals there may be a survivor, early Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon. A pulsing signal was detected Thursday from under the rubble of a Beirut building that collapsed during the horrific port explosion in the Lebanese capital last month, raising hopes there may be a survivor still buried there. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT (AP) — People throughout Lebanon observed a moment of silence Friday marking one month since the devastating Beirut explosion, while rescuers dug through the rubble of a building destroyed in the blast, hoping to find a survivor.

The split-screen images reflected the pain and anguish that persists one month after the Aug. 4 blast that killed 191 people, injured 6,000 others and traumatized Lebanon, which already was suffering under a severe economic crisis and financial collapse.

The search operation in the historic Mar Mikhail district on a street once filled with crowded bars and restaurants has gripped the nation for the past 24 hours. The idea, however unlikely, that a survivor could be found after one month gave hope to people who followed the live images on television, wishing for a miracle.

Rescue workers used cranes, shovels and their bare hands, searching meticulously after a pulsing signal was detected. Search operations first began Thursday after a dog used by the Chilean search and rescue team TOPOS detected something as it toured Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhail streets and rushed toward the rubble.

Images of the black-and-white 5-year-old dog named Flash, wearing red shoes to protect its paws, circulated on social media.

Across from Mar Mikhail, near Beirut port, a commemoration was held for the victims of the blast in the presence of some of their relatives. Soldiers fired a salute, then laid a white rose for every one of the 191 victims at a memorial. The crowd fell silent at 6:08 p.m., the moment of the explosion that marked the most destructive single blast in Lebanon's violent history.

Some wept silently. Others held ropes tied as nooses -- an indication of the grief and raw anger toward officials that persists in the country.

The blast was caused by nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored at Beirut's port for years. In addition to the dead and injured, thousands of homes were damaged by the blast, which smashed windows and doors for miles and was felt on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

It still isn't clear what caused the fire that ignited the ammonium nitrate. The public blames the corruption and negligence of Lebanon's politicians, security and judicial officials, many of whom knew about the storage of the chemicals and did nothing.

"We will hold you accountable," one banner read. A firefighting force drove from headquarters in the direction of the port, marking the route that 10 of their colleagues took when they rushed to put out the fire but were killed instead.

At the search site, rescue workers slowly removed debris from the building in Mar Mikhail with their hands and shovels. The more they dug, the more careful the work became to protect anyone buried there. Later, they brought a 360-degree camera placed at the end of a long pole and pushed it into a hole in the building. Images did not turn up any trace of humans in that particular section.

On Thursday, the team used audio equipment to try to hear signals or a heartbeat and detected what could be a pulse of 18 to 19 beats per minute. The origin of the pulsing sound was not immediately known but it was enough to set off the frantic search.

On Friday morning, the beats dropped to seven per minute, according to comments made by a Chilean volunteer to local TV station Al Jadeed.

"As far as I can understand from my Chilean colleagues, the search area is quite narrow," said a French civil engineer who identified himself only as Emmanuel. He added that the search area is not very deep and is just above the vault of the ground floor.

"What we are searching for at the moment is likely one person" not under much material, he said, adding that they are using a big vacuuming machine, excavators and more workers.

The anger on the street was palpable.

The search was suspended briefly before midnight Thursday, apparently to find a crane. That sparked outrage among protesters at the scene who claimed the Lebanese army had asked the Chilean team to stop the search. In a reflection of the staggering distrust of the authorities, some protesters donned helmets and started searching themselves while others tried to arrange for a crane.

"Where's your conscience? There's life under this building and you want to stop the work until tomorrow?" one woman screamed at a soldier.

Members of Lebanon's Civil Defense team returned after midnight and resumed work.

The army issued a statement Friday in response to the criticism, saying the Chilean team stopped work at 11:30 p.m. because it feared a wall might collapse on them. It added that army experts inspected the site and two cranes were brought in to remove the wall, after which the search resumed.

"Ninety-nine percent there isn't anything, but even if there is less than 1% hope, we should keep on looking," Youssef Malah, a civil defense worker, said Thursday.

A Chilean volunteer, however, said their equipment identifies breathing and heartbeats from humans, not animals, and it detected a sign of human life. The worker, who identified himself as Francisco Lermanda, said it is rare, but not unheard of, for someone to survive in rubble for a month.

Recent weeks have been extremely hot in Lebanon, with high humidity.

Every now and then, the Chilean team called for people on the streets, including a crowd of journalists, to turn off their mobile phones and stay quiet for five minutes to avoid interfering with their instruments.

Two days after the explosion, a French rescue team and Lebanese civil defense volunteers had searched the same building, which had a bar on the ground floor. At the time, they had no reason to believe there was anyone still at the site.


Associated Press writer Hussein Malla and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed reporting.