159 people remain missing as Florida condominium collapse death toll rises to 4
SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) – About 160 people were still missing on Friday a day after an oceanfront condominium collapsed into a rubble pile, and researchers combing through a crooked pile and moving concrete and metal feared the death toll of at least four could go much higher.
With dozens of firefighters working through the night to reach as many survivors as possible both below and above the remains of the building, hopes rested on how quickly teams using dogs and microphones to sift through the wreckage could accomplish their dark but delicate task.
Governor Ron DeSantis, who visited the scene, said television footage did not capture the scale of what had happened. He did not seek federal help until late Thursday night, however, and President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency and authorized a coordinating role in disaster relief efforts at the Federal Management Agency. emergencies.
âWhenever we hear a sound, we focus on those areas,â said Miami-Dade Deputy Fire Chief Raide Jadallah.
See: Survivors recount escapes shortly after Surfside, Florida condominium collapse
Three other bodies were removed overnight and Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said authorities were working with the medical examiner’s office to identify the victims. Eleven injured were reported, including four people treated in hospitals.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescuers were at “extreme risk” of walking through the rubble.
âDebris is falling on them as they do their jobs. We have structural engineers on site to make sure they won’t get injured, but they do it because they are so motivated and they take extraordinary risks on the site every day, âshe said. .
Work focused on what remained of the 12-story South Champlain Towers, which drew people from all over the world to enjoy life on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, some for a night, others for to live. A couple from Argentina and their young daughter. A beloved retired Miami area teacher and his wife. Orthodox Jews from Russia. Israelis. The sister of the first lady of Paraguay. Others from South America.
State Senator Jason Pizzo of Miami Beach told the Miami Herald he saw tactical teams of six working early Friday to sift through debris. He said he saw a body taken in a yellow body bag and another that was marked. They were taken to a homicide unit tent set up along the beach.
Many people remained at the reunification center set up near the collapse site early Friday morning, awaiting the results of DNA samples that could help identify the victims.
Officials said no cause for the collapse had been determined.
Video of the collapse showed that the center of the building appeared to collapse first and that a section closest to the ocean wobbled and collapsed seconds later as a huge cloud of dust engulfed the neighborhood.
About half of the approximately 130 units in the building were affected and rescuers removed at least 35 people from the wreckage in the first hours after the collapse. But with 159 still missing, the work could last for days.
A television video televised early Friday showed teams still battling fire outbreaks on the rubble piles. Intermittent rains over southern Florida are also hampering the search.
Raide Jadallah, deputy chief of the Miami-Dade County fire department, said that although listening devices placed on and in the wreckage did not pick up any voices, they detected possible clicking noises, giving the rescuers hope some are alive. Rescuers were tunneling into the wreckage from below, passing through the building’s underground parking lot.
The personal effects were evidence of shattered lives amid the wreckage of the Champlain, which was built in 1981 in Surfside, a small suburb north of Miami Beach. A children’s bunk bed perched precariously on the top floor, folded but intact and apparently inches from falling into the rubble. A quilt lay on the edge of a lower story. Televisions. Computers. Chairs.
Argentines Andres Galfrascoli, her husband, Fabian NuÃ±ez, and their 6-year-old daughter, Sofia, had spent Wednesday evening in an apartment belonging to a friend, Nicolas Fernandez.
Galfrascoli, plastic surgeon from Buenos Aires, and NuÃ±ez, theater producer and accountant, had come to Florida to escape a COVID-19 resurgence in Argentina and its strict lockdowns. They had worked hard to adopt Sofia, Fernandez said.
âEveryday they chose the worst to stay there,â Fernandez said. “I hope they don’t, but if they die like this it would be so unfair.”
They weren’t the only South Americans missing. Foreign ministries and consulates in four countries said 22 nationals were missing in the collapse: nine from Argentina, six from Paraguay, four from Venezuela and three from Uruguay.
Among the Paraguayans were Sophia LÃ³pez Moreira – the sister of the first lady Silvana Abdo and the sister-in-law of President Mario Abdo BenÃtez – and her family.
Israeli media have said that the country’s consul general in Miami, Maor Elbaz, believes that 20 citizens of that country are missing.
Also missing was Arnie Notkin, a retired Miami-area elementary school physical education teacher, and his wife, Myriam. They lived on the third floor.
âEveryone posted ‘Oh my gosh that was my trainer,’ said Fortuna Smukler, a friend who took to Facebook in hopes of finding someone who would report them safely.
âThey were also such happy and joyful people. He always had a story to tell and she always spoke so kindly about my mother, âsaid Smukler. âOriginally there were rumors that he had been found, but it was a mistaken identity. It would be a miracle if they were found alive.