A team of German engineers sent to Lebanon to help search for people trapped in the rubble after last week's explosion in Beirut is returning home, having failed to find any survivors.
Joerg Eger, who heads the THW agency's rapid rescue team in Lebanon, said Sunday that a number of specialist engineers would remain in Beirut until Thursday to assist in determining the safety of buildings affected by the blast.
TWF is a federal agency, but most of the people who go on missions are volunteers.
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Outrage over the Aug. 4 explosion at the port is running high in the Lebanon and beyond. It killed more than 150 people, injured 6,000 and destroyed large parts of the capital. It also came at a time when Lebanon is reeling under its worst financial meltdown and political crisis in decades.
The Lebanese army said Sunday that hopes have dwindled of finding survivors at the blast site in Beirut following days of search and rescue operations supported by international experts.
"After three days of search and rescue operations we can say we have finished the first phase, which involved the possibility of finding survivors," Colonel Roger Khoury told a press conference.
"As technicians working on the ground, we can say we have fading hopes of finding survivors," added Khoury, who heads a team of military technicians operating at the blast site.
At least 21 people remain missing, according to the health ministry.
Their relatives have watched breathlessly as rescuers from France, Germany, Russia, Qatar and other countries assisted Lebanese authorities in their search and rescue efforts.
But none have managed to find survivors, not even eight to nine port employees French experts believed were trapped alive in a control room buried beneath the rubble.
"We worked non-stop for 48 hours from Thursday morning to try to reach this control room. Unfortunately we did not find a single... survivor," said Colonel Vincent Tissier, leader of the French rescue team. In collaboration with other rescue teams, Tissier said they managed to uncover a total of five corpses.
Most Lebanese authorities say Tuesday's explosion was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse, where a huge shipment of ammonium nitrate, a chemical that can be used as a fertiliser or as an explosive, had languished for years.
The revelation that state officials had long tolerated a ticking time-bomb in the heart of the capital has served as shocking proof to many Lebanese of the rot at the core of the state apparatus.
World leaders, international organisations and a seething Lebanese public have pressed for an international probe, but President Michel Aoun has said that calls for such an investigation are a "waste of time."
In Beirut, the fury on the streets has further shaken the embattled government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, which saw its first cabinet resignation when the information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, quit Sunday.
At least six lawmakers have also quit since the August 4 explosion.
International donors' conference
French President Emmanuel Macron said that an international donors' conference is aiming to show global support for Lebanon after the devastating Beirut blast.
Over 30 international leaders and government officials were taking part Sunday in the video conference co-organized by France and the United Nations to raise money, including President Donald Trump, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Officials from China, European countries and Gulf countries were also attending.
Turkey and Russia, absent from the conference, are expected to provide aid as well, Macron said in his opening speech.
Macron, who was the first foreign leader to visit Beirut in the wake of the explosion, said emergency aid will focus on providing medicine, care, food and housing.
"It is important that aid goes as quickly as possible to public and private actors, NGOs and the civilian society,'' under U.N. supervision, he added.
Chaos must not prevail in Lebanon
Macron also called on Lebanese authorities to carry out essential political and economic reforms to fight corruption in the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said violence and chaos must not prevail in Lebanon as he opened a UN-backed aid conference for the country rocked by angry protests over negligence blamed for the deadly Beirut port blast.
"It is up to the authorities of the country to act so that the country does not sink, and to respond to the aspirations that the Lebanese people are expressing right now, legitimately, in the streets of Beirut," Macron said.
"We must all work together to ensure that neither violence nor chaos prevails," he added. "It is the future of Lebanon that is at stake."