Friday, October 22

Crews at Florida collapse site find body, raising death toll to five

Rescuers found another body in the rubble of a collapsed 12-story condo tower near Miami on Saturday, raising the death toll to five as they raced to retrieve survivors after fighting fire and smoke inside. concrete and metal debris.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the surge in the death toll at an afternoon press conference, saying that identifying three bodies had reduced the number of missing to 156. She said teams also uncovered other human remains. not specified.

The Miami-Dade Police Department said later Saturday that four of the five who died had been identified, along with the apartments where they were located at the time of the collapse. One of them was the mother of a boy who was rescued the night the building collapsed, another couple from the late 1970s and early 1980s, and a 54-year-old man.

Officials said the remains they find are being sent to the medical examiner and that they are also collecting DNA samples from relatives to help identify them.

Furthermore, a video posted online showed an official report to the families of missing loved ones. When he said that they had found remains in the rubble, people began to sob.

Throughout the day, rescuers scoured the mountain of rubble with trained dogs and sonar, looking for survivors. “Our top priority remains search and rescue and saving as many lives as we can,” the mayor said.

But crews had to fight flames through the rubble during the day. At one point Saturday, a fire hose exploded on one of the lower floors on the north side of the tower as white smoke or steam billowed out. A sour smell of sulfur hung in the air.

“The stench is very thick,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

A crane removed pieces of debris from the more than 30-foot pile in the city of Surfside, and dozens of rescuers used large machines, small buckets, drones, microphones and their bare hands to collect the debris.

For many with missing loved ones, the wait was agonizing. The atmosphere was tense inside a hotel ballroom where about 200 family members were briefed, two people present, who requested anonymity to discuss the private conversations, told The Associated Press.

The two said families frustrated by the slow pace of recovery efforts had demanded permission to go to the scene and attempt a collective cry, both an attempt to find survivors and a cathartic farewell to those who had died.

Among those awaiting news of loved ones was Rachel Spiegel, whose mother, Judy Spiegel, 66, lived on the sixth floor. Speaking with his brothers, he said Saturday that “we are trying to stick together.”

“I know my mom is a fighter. I know that she loves us. I know she doesn’t want to give up. So, you know, it’s the third day, so it’s hard, ”Spiegel said.

President Joe Biden said via Twitter that he had spoken with DeSantis on Friday to offer assistance as needed.

“My heart goes out to the Surfside community as they mourn their lost loved ones and anxiously await as search and rescue efforts continue,” Biden tweeted.

Authorities announced that they were beginning an audit of buildings approaching their 40-year overhaul, such as the Champlain Towers South falls, to make sure they are safe. The mayor asked other cities in the county to join in the review of the building and said there will be state and federal funds to help.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have joined local and state authorities at the site, DeSantis said. He added that a nearby “sister building” to the collapsed tower is also being analyzed because it was built at the same time and with the same designer.

On Saturday night, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said a city official had led a cursory search of nearby Champlain Towers North and Champlain Towers East buildings.

“They found nothing out of the ordinary,” he said.

He stressed that the priority now was to rescue anyone who was still alive.

“What we are doing now is saving lives and pulling people out of the rubble. What we are going to do in the next phase, after addressing family support, is to delve into why this building collapsed, ”Burkett said.

Burkett had previously said he was working on a plan to temporarily relocate residents of Champlain Towers North, which was built the same year and is located about 100 meters from the collapsed building, and that FEMA has agreed to pay for the accommodation.

The mayor said he did not plan to order the evacuation of the residents, but that if he lived there, “I would have left.”

Surfside city staff had also been gathering details on Champlain Towers East, which was built in a different style and was apparently built at a different time.

The news came after news of a 2018 engineering report that showed the building had “significant structural damage” to a concrete slab below the pool deck that needed extensive repairs, part of a series of published documents. around the town of Surfside.

While officials said the cause of the collapse has not been determined early Thursday, DeSantis said a “definitive answer” was needed in a timely manner. The video showed that the center of the building appeared to collapse first, followed by a section closer to the beach.

The 2018 report was part of groundwork by the engineering company conducting required building inspections for a recertification expiring this year of the building’s structural integrity at age 40. The condo tower was built in 1981.

A federal agency specializing in disaster losses and structural failure is dispatching half a dozen scientists and engineers to gather direct information to determine whether a more comprehensive study should be conducted.

The first team members arrived on Friday, said Jason Averill, an official with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That agency also investigated the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11 and, more recently, the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, among other disasters.

Separately, the Israeli government said it would send a team of engineers and rescue specialists to assist in the search. Israeli media have reported that some 20 Israeli citizens are believed to be among the missing.

Another 22 missing persons were from Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay, including relatives of the Paraguayan first lady Silvana de Abdo Benítez.

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