SURFSIDE, Fla. – About 160 people were still missing on Friday after an oceanside condominium complex collapsed into a twisted, shifting heap of concrete and metal, and searchers feared the death toll of at least four may rise far higher.
Hundreds of firemen worked overnight to reach any possible survivors from both beneath and atop the building’s ruins, and hopes were riding on how soon crews using dogs and microphones to sift through the rubble could finish their dismal, yet a delicate task.
“We focus on those places every time we hear a sound,” said Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raide Jadallah.
Two big cranes began removing rubble from the pile with large claws on Friday morning, causing a commotion of smashing glass and metal as they lifted up and dropped items to the side.
Three more bodies were retrieved overnight, and Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said the victims were being identified with the help of the medical examiner’s office. Eleven persons were injured, and four of them were sent to the hospital.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade said rescuers were in “grave danger” as they searched through the rubble.
“As they labor, debris is falling on them.” We have structural engineers on site to make sure they don’t get hurt, but they’re going ahead because they’re so motivated and take such a big risk on the job every day,” she explained.
Levine Cava said there was still the possibility of discovering individuals alive because rescuers were using saws and jackhammers to look for pockets large enough to accommodate a human.
People from all around the world were among the missing at what was left of the 12-story Champlain Towers South, including a popular retired Miami-area teacher and his wife. Russia’s Orthodox Jews. Israelis. The first lady of Paraguay’s sister. Others are from the Americas.
As a gigantic dust cloud covered the area, video of the collapse showed the middle of the structure wobbling and collapsing first, followed by a part closest to the water teetering and collapsing seconds later.
Approximately half of the building’s 130 units were affected, and rescuers were able to retrieve at least 35 individuals from the rubble in the first few hours after the collapse. However, with 159 people still missing, the search could take days.
Crews were still extinguishing fires on the rubble heaps early Friday, according to television footage. The hunt is also being hampered by intermittent rain in South Florida.
State Senator Jason Pizzo of Miami Beach told the Miami Herald that he observed as six tactical teams sifted through the rubble early Friday. He claimed to have witnessed one body being placed in a yellow body bag and another being marked. They were escorted to a tent set up down the shore by the homicide unit.
Many people waited for the results of DNA samples that could assist identify victims at the reunification center set up near the collapse site early Friday morning.
The cause of the collapse has yet to be identified, according to officials.
While listening devices placed on and within the wreckage did not pick up any conversations, they did detect possible pounding noises, giving rescuers hope that some people are still alive. Rescuers were tunneling under the building’s basement parking garage to reach the wreckage from below.
Among the rubble of the Champlain, which was built in 1981 in Surfside, a little community north of Miami Beach, were personal belongings, evidence of shattered lives. A children’s bunk bed sat precariously on the top floor, bowed but undamaged and just inches from collapsing into the wreckage. A comforter sat on the lower floor’s edge. Computers and televisions. Chairs.
Dr. Andres Galfrascoli, his husband, Fabian Nuez, and their 6-year-old daughter, Sofia, had slept at a friend’s residence on Wednesday night.
Galfrascoli, a plastic surgeon from Buenos Aires, and Nuez, a theater producer and accountant, had traveled to Florida to avoid a COVID-19 comeback in Argentina and its stringent lockdowns. They had put in a lot of effort to adopt Sofia, according to Fernandez.
“Of all the days to stay there, they chose the worst,” Fernandez remarked. “I hope this isn’t the case, but it would be very unfair if they died like way.”
They weren’t the only ones from South America who had vanished. Nine people from Argentina, six from Paraguay, four from Venezuela, and three from Uruguay were reported missing by the foreign ministries and consulates of four nations.
Sophia López Moreira, the sister of first lady Silvana Abdo and sister-in-law of President Mario Abdo Bentez, and her family were among the Paraguayans.
According to Israeli media, the country’s consul general in Miami, Maor Elbaz, estimates that 20 Israeli individuals have gone missing.
Arnie Notkin, a retired Miami-area elementary school physical education teacher, and his wife, Myriam, were also not present. They had a third-floor apartment.
“Everyone has been saying, ‘Oh my God, he was my coach,’” said Fortuna Smukler, a friend who resorted to Facebook to locate someone who could report them safe.
“They were also such bright, cheerful individuals. Smukler remarked, “He always had a story to tell, and she always spoke so fondly about my mother.” “There were speculations that he had been recovered at first, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. If they are discovered alive, it will be a miracle.”