The death toll from the collapse of a condo building in Surfside, near Miami, rose to five on Saturday night. Three days after the collapse, rescue teams raced to retrieve survivors, fighting fire and smoke inside the concrete and metal debris.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the fifth death at an afternoon briefing, saying the number of missing has dropped to 156. She said teams discovered other human remains.
Miami-Dade police said four of the five dead had been identified, with the apartments where they were located. One was the mother of a child rescued when the building collapsed.
The four named victims were: Stacie Dawn Fang, 54; Antonio Lozano, 83; Gladys Lozano, 79; Manuel LaFont, 54 years old.
A video posted online showed an official report to the families of the missing. When he said that they had found remains, people began to sob.
Throughout the day, workers searched the debris with dogs and sonar. “Our top priority remains search and rescue and saving as many lives as we can,” the mayor said. But the crews had to fight the fire. A sour smell of sulfur hung in the air.
“The stench is very thick,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
A crane removed debris from the 30-foot pile and rescuers used large machines, small buckets, drones and their hands to scoop up the debris.
The atmosphere was tense in a hotel ballroom where about 200 family members were briefed, two people present said. The two said families frustrated with the pace of recovery efforts demanded permission to go to the scene and attempt a collective cry, both an attempt to find survivors and a cathartic goodbye.
Among those waiting for news was Rachel Spiegel, whose mother, 66-year-old Judy Spiegel, lived on the sixth floor. She said: “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. “
When Mike Noriega heard that part of the tower where his grandmother lived had collapsed, he ran with his father to the place. They arrived and found no trace of Hilda Noriega, 92.
But they stumbled upon mementos that testified to Hilda’s life on the sixth floor in Champlain Towers South: a photo with her late husband and son and a birthday card that her prayer group sent her two weeks earlier with the acronym “ESM ”. delivered by hand ”scrawled on the envelope.
“There was a message in the mess of all this,” Noriega said. “It means not losing hope. Have faith.”
Days after the collapse in the early hours of Thursday, Hilda remains among the missing.
Authorities announced that they were beginning an audit of buildings approaching their 40-year review, such as Champlain Towers South. The mayor asked other cities to join in the review of the building and said there would be state and federal funds to help.
Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) were at the site, DeSantis said. He said a “sister building” to the collapsed tower was being examined because it was built at the same time and with the same designer.
Later Saturday, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said a city official had led a cursory review of Champlain Towers North and Champlain Towers East.
“They found nothing out of the ordinary,” he said. “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 the support to families, is to delve into the reason why this building collapsed ”.
Burkett previously said he was working on a plan to temporarily relocate residents of Champlain Towers North, which was built the same year and is about 100 meters away, and that Fema had agreed to pay for the accommodation. The mayor said he did not plan to order an evacuation, but that if he lived there, “I would have left.”
The news came after the release of a 2018 engineering report showing the building had “significant structural damage” to a concrete slab below the pool deck. Deputy Mayor Tina Paul called the document “very alarming.”
Donna DiMaggio Berger, an attorney who works with the condo association in Champlain Towers South, said the problems described in the 2018 report were typical of older buildings in the area and did not alarm board members, all of whom they lived in the tower.
He added that the board had obtained a $ 12 million line of credit to pay for the repairs and asked the owners to pay $ 80,000 each. Work had started to replace the roof before hurricane season and the board was gathering bids for the concrete job, but the pandemic delayed the project, he said.
Satellite data from the 1990s showed the building was sinking between 1mm and 3mm per year, while surrounding buildings held steady, according to Florida International University professor Shimon Wdowinski.
While officials said the cause of the collapse had not been determined, DeSantis said a “definitive answer” was needed in a timely manner. The video showed that the center of the building appeared to fall first, followed by a section closer to the beach.
The 2018 report was part of the preliminary work of the engineering company that performs the inspections required for a recertification that expires this year of structural integrity at 40 years. The tower was built in 1981.
A federal agency specializing in structural failure is sending scientists and engineers to determine if 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, who also investigated the collapse of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11.
Israel said it would send engineering and rescue specialists. Israeli media have reported that some 20 citizens are believed to be among the missing. Another 22 were from Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism