Rescuers they look haggard and exhausted after hours of working in sweltering heat in the difficult search for victims in the rubble of the collapsed Surfside, Miami building, which he left until now 10 dead and about 150 missing.
The 300 firefighters County of Miami-Dade, supported by reinforcements from across the state of Florida, were deployed as soon as 55 apartments in the Champlain Towers complex collapsed in the early hours of Thursday.
In that mess of iron and concrete, operations are proceeding too slowly for some families of the victims.
“It seems slow, but we are moving as fast as possible“said Maggie Castro, a member of the Miami-Dade Fire Department’s No. 1 Search and Rescue Unit, who nonetheless understands anger and frustration.
“It is a difficult operation”, interrupted by regular thunderstorms and a fire which took a long time to control, he added in statements to AFP.
“We have to search through a huge pile of rubble so methodical and strategic“explained Castro, 52, 17 of whom in the Miami Fire Department.
“There are areas with potential air pockets where there may be survivors. If we rush into the rubble aggressively, we destroy those spaces. “
By hand and with dogs
The first rescuers, who arrived shortly after the disaster, managed to pull a teenager alive from the ruins. While, no human remains have yet been identified.
Given the slow increase in the number of victims despite the magnitude of the tragedy, Castro said that the “people were probably in bed when it happened”, so there is little chance of finding many at once.
I remember in Miami. AP Photo
Heavy machinery, two cranes and an excavator were deployed on Friday. When a concrete slab is lifted, rescuers “they work by hand, scooping out the rubble with buckets”, he indicated.
Between 50 and 60 rescuers and units of dogs work constantly on site, supported by image and sound technology to locate air pockets.
Moises Soffer, a volunteer for the Jewish-Latin American organization Cadena International, participates with Oreo, his almost two year old pomsky bitch, which is specially trained to find survivors.
“I let her go and she goes where she wants. In gaps, spaces where an adult cannot go, in unstable places thanks to their weight, “says his master, a 36-year-old Mexican.
If Soffer detects danger, the recognition is made with the strap and The bitch marks “the address” to follow.
Oreo can work five to six hours at a time, with 20-minute breaks. But at Surfside, he does it early in the morning and in the late afternoon due to the heat and humidity.
Soffer is not authorized to say if his dog detected survivors, but he assures that it will stay “as long as it takes.”
Though the hope of finding victims alive decreases day by day.
“We hear falling debris, twisted metal, but we have not heard human noise“Castro said.
“It is difficult, exhausting and emotionally heavy when we work for hours without finding anyone, “he admitted.
Faced with the impatience of the victims’ families, including many members of the Jewish community, the county welcomed a team of ten expert Israeli military personnel who joined the rescue teams.
Castro recalls that his unit has experience: it participated in search and rescue work after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some of his team members also participated in relief operations after the Oklahoma City attacks in 1995 and September 11 in 2001.