The death toll from the Florida collapse has risen to four; 159 people remain missing.
Around 160 people remained missing Friday, a day after an oceanfront condominium complex collapsed into a heap of debris, and searchers sifting through a twisted, shifting mass of concrete and metal feared the death toll of at least four may rise significantly.
With teams of firefighters laboring overnight to reach any possible survivors both beneath and atop the wreckage, hopes were riding on how swiftly crews sifting through the wreckage with dogs and microphones could finish their terrible, yet delicate task.
“Whenever we hear a sound, we focus our attention on those areas,” Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raide Jadallah explained.
Three additional remains were recovered overnight, and Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez stated that police were collaborating with the medical examiner’s office to identify the victims. Eleven injuries were reported, with four individuals receiving medical treatment.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said rescuers were in “extreme danger” as they combed through the rubble.
“Debris falls on them as they labor. We have structural engineers on site to assure their safety, but they are progressing because they are so motivated and take tremendous risks every day on the job,” she explained.
Levine Cava claimed that with rescuers utilizing saws and jackhammers to dig for pockets large enough to accommodate a person, there was still chance of finding survivors.
People from all around the world were among the missing at what remained of the 12-story Champlain Towers South: a popular retired Miami-area teacher and his wife. Russian Orthodox Jews Israelis. The first lady of Paraguay’s sister. Others originate in South America.
State Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami Beach told the Miami Herald that he observed tactical squads of six sifting through the wreckage early Friday. He stated that he 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.
Numerous people stayed at the reunification center established near the collapse site early Friday morning, awaiting the results of DNA swabs that could assist in identifying victims.
According to officials, the cause of the collapse has not been determined.
The collapse was captured on video and showed the building’s center collapsing first, followed by a part closest to the water swaying and collapsing seconds later, as a massive dust cloud engulfed the area.
Around half of the building’s approximately 130 units were damaged, and rescuers extracted at least 35 individuals from the rubble in the initial hours following the collapse. However, with 159 people still missing, the search could go days.
Early Friday morning television footage showed personnel battling flare-ups of fires on the rubble piles. The hunt is also being hampered by intermittent rain over South Florida.
While listening devices put on and within the wreckage could not catch any conversations, they did hear possible pounding noises, giving rescuers optimism that some survivors are still alive. Rescuers were digging into the wreckage from below, via the underground parking garage of the skyscraper.
Personal possessions were scattered throughout the Champlain’s wreckage, which was built in 1981 in Surfside, a small community north of Miami Beach. A children’s bunk bed stood dangerously on the top floor, bent yet intact and seemingly inches from collapsing. A comforter lay on the bottom floor’s edge. Computers and televisions. Chairs.
Dr. Andres Galfrascoli, his husband Fabian Nuez, and their 6-year-old daughter Sofia had spent Wednesday night at a friend’s apartment.
Galfrascoli, a plastic surgeon from Buenos Aires, and Nuez, a theater producer and accountant, had moved to Florida to escape Argentina’s COVID-19 revival and its stringent lockdowns. They had fought tooth and nail to adopt Sofia, Fernandez explained.
“Of all days, they chose the worst,” Fernandez explained. “I hope that is not the case, but if they do, it would be so unjust.”
They were hardly the only South Americans who had vanished. Four nations’ foreign ministries and consulates confirmed that 22 individuals were reported missing in the collapse: nine from Argentina, six from Paraguay, four from Venezuela, and three from Uruguay.
Sophia López Moreira and her family were among the Paraguayans. Sophia is the sister of first lady Silvana Abdo and the sister-in-law of President Mario Abdo Bentez.
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 physical education teacher from the Miami area, and his wife, Myriam, were also absent. They were third-floor residents.
“Everyone has been posting, ‘Oh my God, he was my coach,’” said Fortuna Smukler, a buddy who resorted to Facebook in search of someone who could report them safe.
“They were also such cheerful, joyous individuals. He was constantly telling stories, and she always spoke so sweetly about my mother,” Smukler explained. “At first, there were reports that he had been located, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. If they are discovered alive, it will be a miracle.”