- Drafting *
- BBC News World
The storms make it difficult for rescue teams to continue searching for survivors in the rubble of the building that partially collapsed last Thursday in Surfside, Florida.
Dozens of people remain without being located, while the count of the mortal victims advances slowly.
Every day that passes family and friends they lose hope a little more of finding loved ones alive, although some hope a miracle will occur.
At the same time, survivors of the collapse talk about how they managed to escape the disaster.
One of them is Susana Álvarez, 62, who lived in the 10ª plant del edificio Champlain Towers South.
Lulu García Navarro, from the program Weekend Edition of the American public radio NPR, interviewed her.
First of all, how are you?
I’m not well. I am very, very sensitive. Everything I own was in that apartment, but I don’t care. I left my cat. And that, for me, is the worst and is the only thing I want to recover.
You were in the building when it collapsed. Can you tell us what happened?
I was in bed and heard a shaking. The truth is that I did not worry. I thought “oh, tomorrow on the news we will hear about tremors in Florida.” But not even a minute had passed when my bed started to shake like I was in a ride.
I mean, the bed was shaking. The balcony doors opened. And I felt the longest thunder I ever heard in my life. At that point, I got up, closed the balcony doors, I don’t know why, and grabbed my phone. I don’t know why, because I didn’t grab anything else. And I ran and out the door.
My apartment is at the front of the building and is right in front of the elevators. There were no elevators, just holes. And there was a lot of smoke that actually must have been dust.
I went around the corner and that’s when I saw that the building was gone. There was nothing there and people were screaming. I could hear them screaming. At that point I turned around. There were to be two apartments left on my floor and I knocked on their doors. They came out and I told them “we have to get out of here.”
The emergency exit wouldn’t open, but I saw people on the other side and knocked on the door. They opened it and I ran. I went with the others, I just ran. I left the cat behind, I ran. And I ran and ran. We went down the stairs, which were littered with rubble. And then I don’t know where we left, but there were cars that were full of rocks and materials on top, crashed.
And there was water, a lot of water. And I don’t know how we climb through the rubble. There were two men and a young man with us who helped us. There was an old lady and they helped us get around the rubble. And when we got out, I could only hear people yelling. They yelled “help, help, someone help us!” They screamed. There were people alive there.
All of this, of course, in the middle of the night, it’s dark.
Yes, but there was a full moon, which made the situation worse. There was light, but it was eerie. I thought of a bomb, that is, when I saw that the building was no longer there, what I thought is that I had to flee.
Where are you staying now?
I’m close to the building. I don’t want to go, I won’t go. I am staying in the area, I have friends in Surfside.
And have you returned to the building? What did you see?
Yes, I go every day. I can’t get into the building, of course, but I get as close as I can. And the building is covered in smoke, everywhere. It is so emotional. I just want to get my cat back. I know it sounds silly, but that’s all I want, my cat.
I thought of a bomb. When I saw that the building was no longer there, what I thought is that I had to flee ”
It doesn’t sound silly. Your cat’s name is Mia, right?
Yes Yes. I should have come back for her.
But you know if you had done that you could have lost your life.
You did the only thing that you could do.
I was only thinking of myself. I was just thinking about going out.
It was an unimaginable situation. What do the survivors say, what do they talk about? What do you think at this moment? Have you been able to rebuild yourself and think about what comes next?
I’ll be fine. I have a good job, I am not helpless. But right now I’m homeless. I know that I can recover. I know. The kindness of the people has been extraordinary.
From the man who hugged me when I went out to that beach, I was totally alone there and I have no idea who he was, to the security guard of the neighboring building, the luxury building, who came out, grabbed me and said “you come with me”. All my friends have been giving me suitcases and clothes and things.
They are. They are. During times like this, they are very good.
There has been a lot of news about the possible causes of this collapse. It appears that an engineer alerted the condo association of major structural damage as early as 2018. Was this shared with residents? I mean, did you have any idea that the building was unsound?
Not up to that point. And I want you to know that in 2018 we had a board meeting. We sat down with the folks from the town of Surfside. And they told us that the building was not bad. That’s what they said, you know?
The structural engineer has been around for a while. The residents had to put up US $ 15 million to repair the building according to their instructions. No one ever, ever told us that the building was so bad, no one, no one.
I think the engineer did not do his job well. I mean, this doesn’t happen like that all of a sudden. It happened in seconds, out of nowhere.
It seems you want answers.
I want answers, yes, I want answers. I want important answers. That was my home. I was going to retire there. I thought it was a wonderful property, I was so happy. I had this lovely apartment on the beach.
And please understand that I don’t care about everything I lost in that apartment, including my parents’ wedding rings or my dad’s 18-karat gold Cuban watch that was engraved and all that, I don’t care.
I had just taken all the photos of my mother, all the photos of our family to the apartment two days before because I was going to order them. I do not care about that. I only care about the cat.
Susana, I’m very sorry for everything you lost.
I cannot assume this. They are our neighbors. They are the people I greet. The lady who was in the elevator with me before I went to sleep, before I went home that night, we were talking.
He did yoga with me. They were a very nice couple. They always wanted me to go out, to ride my bike with them. And their daughter stayed with them.
I want answers. That was my home. I was going to retire there ”
No. I also want to tell you that that couple you are talking about on the news, who lived in apartment 1001, a man and his wife who had their niece visiting, they were the kindest, they always were.
I live alone, I have no family. They always offered me help. Forever.
Sounds like a really good community.
It was, it was. The people who lived there were good, good people who didn’t deserve this.
* IsThe interview was conducted by Lulu Garcíto Navarro and broadcast in the program “Weekend Edition“ from the radio pUS public NPR. BBC Mundo reproduces it here with their permission.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.