As many as 159 people remained unaccounted for Friday afternoon, dozens more than officials had estimated a day earlier, as rescuers used trained dogs and sonar in a frantic search through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South building near Miami.,
A frantic search for survivors in the rubble stretched into a second day.
Rescue Efforts Continue After Florida Condo Collapse
At least four people were killed after a high-rise residential building collapsed near Miami Beach on Thursday. About 159 people remained unaccounted for on Friday afternoon.
Reporter: “Have you seen anything that leads you to believe there are still people alive there?” “We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people alive.” “I was about to fall asleep when my wife and my kid, and my mom called me desperate, ‘Please, help me.’ I thought that it was a joke. Well, then I came running here and I’m trying to see what’s going on. And when I saw the building, I just couldn’t believe myself.”
At least four people were killed after a high-rise residential building collapsed near Miami Beach on Thursday. About 159 people remained unaccounted for on Friday afternoon.CreditCredit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times
June 25, 2021, 4:53 a.m. ET
Rescue workers continued Friday to comb through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., just north of Miami Beach. But by afternoon, 159 people remained unaccounted for and four people confirmed dead, the same numbers officials had released early in the morning. No survivors had been found Friday.
“Speaking with a lot of these family members, when they’re unaccounted for, it’s a really, really difficult thing because they just don’t know,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said.
Officials continued to express hope that they would find survivors, but there was also a growing realization that time could be running short. Family members of the missing were asked to provide D.N.A. swabs in case it was needed to identify remains. President Biden said federal mortuary services would be available if needed.
“My mind tells me there is no way she could have survived such a massive collapse, but I believe in a God that can do anything,” said Sally Noriega, whose 91-year-old mother-in-law, Hilda Noriega, lived in the building and has not been heard from.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said crews were doing everything they could to safely sift through the rubble for survivors.
“These first responders are going in through tunnels, they’re working from the top, they’re working from the bottom,” Ms. Levine Cava said. “It has to be done very, very carefully. They can’t dislodge pieces of debris that could injure them in the process. They can’t dislodge debris that could possibly make it more difficult to continue the search.”
An official with the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department said Friday that Stacie Fang, 54, died in the collapse. Ms. Fang was rescued from the rubble but pronounced dead at a hospital. She is the first victim to be identified by the medical examiner. Ms. Fang was the mother of Jonah Handler, a 15-year-old boy pulled from the rubble on Thursday in a dramatic rescue, the authorities said.
“We could see his arms sticking out and his fingers wiggling,” said Nicholas Balboa, 31, who was walking near Champlain Towers when he saw the building collapse. “He was just saying, ‘Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.'”
The stunning collapse of the residential building, in the beachfront town of Surfside, left few answers and considerable questions about how a 40-year-old condo building could have suddenly crumbled as residents rested in their beds.
The structure, with more than 130 units, was home to a mix of retirees and well-off professionals with young families. The wrecked interiors of what were once people’s homes gaped open toward the ocean: Broken air-conditioning units. An empty bunk bed. Linens waving in the wind.
“The collapse stopped right at our apartment,” said Marian Smeraldi-Lopez, who said she escaped from the sixth floor on the partly collapsed building’s stairway. “No apartments on that north side were visible. Just air, debris and rubble.”
A lawyer for the resident-led association that manages Champlain Towers said the building had been about to undergo extensive repairs for rusted steel and damaged concrete.
Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Levine Cava pledged to investigate the causes of the collapse.
“We all want answers; we all need answers,” Ms. Levine Cava said. “We never want this to happen again.”