Hopes flagging for finding survivors in Miami building collapse
Miami, Jun 29 (EFE).- Despite a huge deployment of human and material resources, the number of known fatalities in the 12-story condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, remains at 11 without any additional bodies of the 150 people missing having been located in the pile of rubble in recent hours.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said on Tuesday that relatives and friends of the missing have been expressing anger and “frustration” as they wait for the seemingly ever-more-unlikely finding of their loved ones alive amid the ruins.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared before the media along with the heads of the various departments involved in the search and rescue operation, but were able to say only that rescue workers were doing everything in their power and “breaking their backs” to find survivors.
Levine Cava said that on Tuesday morning 210 emergency personnel were working at the disaster site and they will be relieved after their 12-hour shifts by other personnel.
In all, more than 800 people are assigned to the operation, working on different tasks, the officials said at their press conference.
Levine Cava said that they had enough personnel to do the job and they are “the best in the world” at such tasks, going on to express gratitude for President Joe Biden’s announcement that he intends to visit the site “as soon as Thursday.”
Last Thursday at 1:30 am, 55 apartments of the 136 in the Champlain Towers South condo building, built in 1981, collapsed in pancake fashion for as yet undetermined reasons that are being intensively investigated.
As per different sources and documents, it is known at present that since 2018 there have been reports that the building had structural problems that needed to be addressed.
In April 2021, the president of the condo board reported that the deterioration of the reinforced concrete detected by an engineering firm three years prior was progressing rapidly, as local media reported Tuesday.
Levine Cava said on Tuesday that South Florida legal authorities are looking to appoint a grand jury to investigate the tragedy, saying that she supported that move.
The reports, as well as the scanty results of the admittedly grueling and difficult search operation, are feeding the frustrations of relatives of the missing.
According to the Miami-Dade County mayor, the list of 150 missing people is not “definitive,” and authorities are trying to gather information from the consulates of several countries to create a more precise list of who might have been staying in their apartments in the building when it collapsed.
She also said that all 11 bodies found in the rubble so far have been identified.
Among the missing are people from Israel, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela. There are also foreigners among the known dead.
Miami-Dade fire chief Alan Cominsky emphasized the difficulty and the risks of working on the search teams as well as the great efforts being made by rescue workers, who come not only from the US but also from Mexico and Israel.
He said that workers have been tirelessly removing the mountain of rubble piece by piece for the past six days.
In all, with the help of heavy machinery, three million pounds of debris have been removed so far, but over the past six days difficulties have arisen due to a fire that broke out in the lower portion of the rubble pile, producing potentially toxic smoke, along with heavy rain and thunderstorms.
Burkett said that another concern for rescue teams is that pieces of the uncollapsed part of the building are beginning to fall to the ground, although there appears to be no danger that the rest of the structure could collapse.
On the day of the collapse, one survivor was found amid the rubble, and although it would seem that finding more survivors is less likely with each passing day the heads of the rescue teams and local authorities have been saying that it remains possible that other people may still be found alive in voids within the ruins, as has occurred in other similar disasters.
Venezuela’s Carlos Vecchio, who is recognized as that country’s ambassador by the US but has been exiled by the Caracas government, on Tuesday visited the disaster site.