The Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR), which arrived in Beirut last week, has stopped searching for survivors of the explosion. The team may return to the Netherlands after the weekend, USAR reports to NU.nl on Saturday.
On Saturday USAR assisted the local authorities with Dutch construction engineers in mapping the damage to buildings and whether they are stable enough or should be propped up. Assistance was also provided in securing documents from the Dutch embassy caused by the explosion was badly damaged.
“We don’t need a full week for that, so I do expect that we will return to the Netherlands after the weekend,” says Jop Heinen of USAR.
The team was tasked with finding victims who were under the rubble. These activities are now over, Heinen continues. According to him, there are no areas left to be searched. The Dutch USAR, which left on Wednesday evening with a team of 63 emergency workers and eight detection dogs, has not found any persons.
At least 158 people were killed in the disaster, 5,000 people were injured. Many people are still missing.
Thousands of Lebanese protested against government corruption on Saturday. The Lebanese government failed to prevent the disaster, according to protesters. As a result, USAR had to cease operations earlier. “On the advice of the embassy and the authorities, we will not go into the city center now and we stopped earlier this afternoon. So unfortunately we cannot do anything now. It will soon also be dark and it will be very difficult to inspect buildings,” said Heinen Saturday afternoon from Beirut.
Search mission is a ‘big job’
In addition to the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, France and Russia have also sent rescue teams to the disaster area in Beirut.
The operation could not start immediately on Wednesday evening, because coordination had to be done first, which, according to Heinen, was still quite a job. “It is always a quest to get a good picture of the situation. Of course you want to go straight into that area, but we are mainly here to help the authorities and we also do not want multiple teams to do the same area.”
USAR works entirely with volunteers and includes Dutch fire and ambulance personnel. According to Heinen, it is very special to be part of the mission. “These aid workers do this work daily in the Netherlands. It is very special when you are on the news about the events in Beirut and can lend a helping hand yourself 24 hours later.”