Apartment collapse: Rescue crews battle storms as they seek for dozens nonetheless unaccounted for in Florida condominium collapse

0
167

These were likely the worst tropical storm impact the search efforts are facing today, but some lighter impacts are still possible later Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said.

However, officials continue to monitor weather conditions: as long as the wind gusts stay below 45 miles per hour, search and rescue teams can continue their work, said Miami-Dade Fire Department spokeswoman Erika Benitez. But when gusts reach that number, the teams are called from the heap of rubble.

Any lightning within a 2.5 mile radius would also stop the search for 30 minutes, Benitez told CNN.

Another 113 people have been missing since the building’s sudden collapse in the middle of the night two weeks ago, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a press conference on Tuesday.

Of those 113 reports, “only about 70 were people whom we could confirm were actually in the building during the collapse”. She added that detectives continue to interview friends and family to match names, dates of birth and apartment numbers.

According to health system spokeswoman Lidia Amoretti-Morgado, two people will remain in the hospital and in the care of the Jackson Health System after the collapse. Further details are not known for data protection reasons, she said.

The press conference came as the local search and rescue efforts became even more urgent. The likelihood of finding survivors under the rubble decreases with each passing day.

Surfside condominium death toll rises to 28

The extent of this debris is considerable; About 5 million pounds of rubble has been removed from the collapse site so far, Mayor Cava’s office said.

The collapse of the “pancake” style apartment, with each floor falling directly onto the floor below, added to the misery. Miami-Dade County’s chief fire officer Alan Cominsky said rescuers are searching the rubble for empty spaces or habitable spaces where people may have survived – but have not found any positive signs so far.

“The most important things we’ve been looking for in terms of white space, habitable spaces, you know, we don’t run into that,” he said.

The condo collapse has raised the question of whether other residential buildings in Miami-Dade County, where sea levels are rising, salty air is corrosive, and nearly two-thirds of all commercial, condominium, and apartment buildings are as old or older than that, might be at risk 40-year-old building that collapsed, according to a CNN analysis of the county records.

In particular, officials said they had concerns about the condominium’s sister building, Champlain Towers North, which was being built around the same time with the same developer and likely the same materials as the collapsed building, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

“Since we do not know why the first building collapsed, we have serious concerns about this building,” said Burkett on Tuesday.

The rest of the condominium building was demolished

The rescue work was briefly interrupted at the weekend in order to demolish the building of the condominium that was still standing on Sunday night. Officials believed the move was necessary for the safety of the rescue workers, especially given the coming storm.

The danger was that the structure could fall onto the rubble – or the people working on it – without warning or control. Instead, Mayor Cava said Monday that the crews were able to carry out the demolition “exactly as planned”.

“All that landed on the existing heap was dust,” she said.

Demolishing the remaining structure made the effort much safer, officials said.

“The worst that could happen was a storm come in and blow up the building on top,” said Burkett.

Officials attributed the ease, safety and speed with which the crews operate on the rubble to the demolition on Sunday evening.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday that the teams on the ground are making “a lot of progress” and that while the demolition decision was not made by his office, he felt it was the “right thing” to help everyone move forward.

“We really couldn’t go on without demolishing this building,” said Cava. “As we speak, the teams are working on the part of the pile that was inaccessible before the building was demolished.”

For residents of the demolished section of the building, feelings are more complicated: they have been evacuated and told it was unsafe to go in and retrieve their belongings before the building was destroyed.

Burkett said people around the world raised millions of dollars to support these families, many of whom have been relocated to hotels. Officials have also asked them to catalog their personal belongings in hopes of recovering them from the rubble and returning them.

“All politicians are focused on supporting families and getting everyone out of this rubble and reuniting them with their families,” said CNN’s Burkett Boris Sanchez. “It is really a beautiful thing. There is a lot of love here.”

Burkett said Tuesday that several families have asked to visit the collapse site again and he will work to make that happen.

“Of course we have to bypass the rescue effort,” he said. “I think it would be very, very good for these families to see again the amazing effort that is being made for them.”

Officials have not given up hope of finding people alive

Rescue workers are looking for victims in a collapsed residential building in south Florida on Monday.

Other federal partners have arrived on site to investigate why the building collapsed. Mayor Cava said the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the US Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation are deploying staff.

“NIST, our federal partner, continues to work closely with construction specialists, detectives and local fire departments as the evidence-gathering process is in full swing,” she said.

A family of four, a 60-year love story, a young man with muscular dystrophy: what we know about the collapse victims

“They are capturing all possible intelligence from the rubble and all evidence is properly tagged and logged.”

Given the “harsh terrain of the heap,” LIDAR scanners work so they can “better analyze the rubble,” she said. “All of this evidence will be vital to any NIST fact-finding report.”

Since returning to work after the demolition, rescue teams have recovered a number of other bodies.

Two of the deceased were identified as Ingrid Ainsworth, 66, and Tzvi Ainsworth, 68, according to Miami-Dade police. Six of the 32 victims killed in the incident remain unknown.

The victims are between 4 and 92 years old.

Despite the slim chance, officials still hope to find people alive in the rubble.

“Hope must not be given up,” said Burkett. “I think we all agree on that. We owe it to the families. We have a duty, unlimited resources – we’ll make sure everyone gets out. “

correction: An earlier version of this story gave Daniella Levine Cava the wrong title. She is the mayor of Miami-Dade.

CNN’s Allison Flexner, Raja Razek, Kay Jones, Rob Kuznia, Scott Glover, Curt Devine, Casey Tolan, Gregory Lemos and Rosa Flores contributed to this report.