Beirut explosion: Palestinian rescuers behind rescue of man from rubble

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The world was hoping for at least some positive news from Lebanon the day after the explosions rocked Beirut and killed more than 150 of its people.

One of the first chinks of light in the darkness came with a video showing the rescue of Issam Shamas from the rubble.

Mr Shamas, a volunteer with the Lebanese Civil Defence, was dug out of a collapsed three-storey building by a team of Palestinian rescuers near Saint George Hospital.

He was freed about noon on August 5, 17 hours after the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port.

The video, showing delighted onlookers and rescue teams clapping and whooping as Mr Shamas was carried to safety on a stretcher, went viral online.

Between 20 and 25 volunteer members of the local Palestinian Civil Defence regiment worked for 11 hours straight, without proper equipment or manpower.

“This was not an easy rescue operation. Three floors of ruins were balanced over his body with a piece of wood,” said Mohamed Al Habet, the commander of the Bourj Al Barajneh regiment of the Palestinian Civil Defence.

Mr Al Habet and team operations officer Bilal Abu Hashem spoke to The National later.

The said the ruins could have crushed Mr Shamas's body with any hesitation or reckless move, the team said.

“It was the hardest operation we ever made,” Mr Al Habet said. “But we did it. Issam is alive.”

Usually this regiment undertakes tasks like firefighting, providing shelter, search and rescue and taking injured people to and from hospitals in their areas.

They are helped with training from organisations such as the Lebanese Red Cross, International Red Cross and Palestinian Red Crescent.

Destruction inside a church in the aftermath of the massive explosion. AFP

A man holds a damaged sculpture depicting Mary in his house near the site of Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area. Reuters

A man removes broken glass scattered on the carpet of a mosque damaged in Tuesday's blast in Beirut. Reuters

A woman cleans debris from her damaged apartment a day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut. AP Photo

People clean debris at Mohammed Al Amin mosque in the centre of Beirut. AFP

People clean debris at Mohammed Al Amin mosque in the centre of Beirut. AFP

Karim Corbani, 45, poses for a portrait inside his bedroom in Beirut. Getty Images

Workers throw a broken window from a damaged apartment a day after an explosion hit the seaport of Beirut. AP Photo

A helicopter trying to put out the fire a day after the explosion rocked Beirut. EPA

Women clear the damage outside a sideroad kiosk in Beirut. AFP

People help clear rubble and debris from the driveway of a residential building in Beirut. Bloomberg

The damaged Wardieh hospital is pictured in the aftermath of the blast that tore through Lebanon's capital. AFP

A woman sits in front of a building, damaged by the explosion a day earlier. Getty Images

Lebanese inspect the damage in the aftermath of yesterday's blast that tore through Lebanon's capital. AFP

A woman looks out of the collapsed facade of an apartment. Getty Images

A woman looks down from a balcony. Getty Images

A man looks from the balcony of a building. Getty Images

A woman stands inside her damaged home. Reuters

When the explosion occurred, the regiment sprung into action.

“I’m here, I’m here. I need oxygen,” was the first thing they heard from Mr Shamas, Mr Abu Hashem said.

The rescuers said he was very patient, calm and brave for a man who lived through such a tremendous ordeal.

After Mr Shamas was pulled from the wreckage, he was given oxygen and the team tried to boost his morale, joking with him to ease the tension, they said.

"We felt our soul coming back,” Mr Al Habet and Mr Abu Hashem said at the same time, as they described the moment Mr Shamas was rescued.

The scene was victorious. His smiling face was a first step towards restoring some hope to those in the area and who later watched the video.

Although the citizens are accustomed to tragedy, the events of the last week have taken their toll.

But the regiment’s rescue operation provided them with strength and motivation to look for more survivors, to believe that there are more heroes who have survived the ordeal.

This motivation has borne fruit, in the rescue of an Ethiopian woman trapped under rubble in the same area.

Mr Shamas is safe now, the rescuers said. He could not believe he had be found alive.

The Palestinian Civil Defence is still working hard and collaborating with Lebanese and foreign rescuers to find more survivors, while the heartbroken population are still waiting to hear more beating hearts under the ruins of Beirut.

This article was written in collaboration with Egab.

Updated: August 10, 2020 12:57 AM

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