Rescue teams continue this Friday (25) the search for survivors in the rubble of a residential building that partially collapsed in Surfside Beach, near Miami Beach, Florida, in the early hours of Thursday (24). According to information released by Miami-Dade County authorities this Friday morning, four deaths have been confirmed and 159 people who could have been in the building are missing.
The Champlain Towers South condominium is located on Collins Avenue in Surfside Beach in suburban Miami, Florida. It was built in 1981, close to the seafront, and has 12 floors that house 136 one-, two- or three-bedroom apartments. The north-east wing of the building collapsed at around 1:30 am on Thursday (2:30 am EDT) when survivors and surrounding residents reported being awakened by the noise of alarms, ground tremors and a crash.
What caused the building’s collapse is still something that needs to be investigated. On Thursday afternoon, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called it a “structural engineering issue.” Work was being carried out on the concrete terrace as part of an infrastructure overhaul so that the building could obtain a license required by the city for 40-year-old buildings.
A lawyer involved in the renovation project told the New York Times he did not believe the collapse was related to some problems identified in the survey, since, he said, any old building built near the sea has some level of corrosion and deterioration of the concrete.
CNN also reported that a study last year showed signs that the building was sinking about 2 millimeters a year between 1993 and 1999. Shimon Wdowinski, a professor at Florida International University’s Environmental Institute, told the network it could not have been the reason for the collapse, but that it may have been a contributing factor to the disaster.
According to experts, it will take months and perhaps years to determine the causes of the collapse of one of the building’s wings.
Searches and victims
The identities of the four people who were found dead have yet to be revealed. First responders fear there will be many more victims in the disaster, as 159 people are missing. Authorities said 35 people were rescued from the part of the building that did not collapse and two were pulled from the rubble. In total, 102 residents of the collapsed building were located.
At a press conference, Levine Cava stressed that “the hope of finding people alive” remains and the search through the mountain of rubble will continue, despite the “extreme risk” this represents for first responders. The 100+ who worked shifts throughout this night heard not voices, but sounds that may not necessarily be human-made, and it is in these places that they look in more detail, explained a spokesman for the Fire Department. Miami-Dade.
At the family reunification center that operates a few blocks from the Champlain Towers, emergency services are beginning to collect DNA samples from people with missing relatives to facilitate identification when bodies are found in the rubble, according to NBC 6 television station. “. These people are desperate to find their families more than 24 hours after the 55 apartments in the building collapsed, but they are still waiting for a “miracle”, as many have declared.
Among the missing are people of different nationalities, including Latin America – 45% of Surfside’s population identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay said on Thursday that there are six Paraguayans missing in the disaster. Among them are Sophia López Moreira, sister of Paraguayan first lady Silvana López Moreira, and her husband Luis Pettengill.
There are at least nine Argentines missing, including a five-year-old girl, according to the country’s authorities. Two other Argentines managed to save themselves: actors Nicolás Vázquez and Gimena Accardi.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in Miami-Dade County, in response to a request by US President Joe Biden to provide assistance to families affected by the collapse. In executive order, DeSantis explained that “a substantial part of the structure was destroyed and the rest became uninhabitable”.
The measure calls for instructing all state, regional and local government agencies, including law enforcement agencies, to identify the necessary teams to help meet the response, recovery and mitigation needs created by this emergency.
The text signed by DeSantis declares “illegal for any person to rent or sell at an unreasonable price within the area for which a state of emergency is declared any essential product, including but not limited to supplies, services, provisions or necessary equipment”.
The governor also ordered that “sufficient resources be made available as needed, transferring and spending appropriate money for other purposes.”