A fire inside the rubble pile of the building that collapsed Thursday (24) in the town of Surfside, outside Miami, in the United States, is making the complex process of rescuing victims difficult.
The death toll currently stands at nine, and there are still dozens of people missing.
“Our rescuers found another body in the rubble,” said Daniella Levine Cava, mayor of Miami-Dade County, where Surfside is located, on Saturday.
The slow death toll despairs the families of the victims, grieving at not knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones.
American press vehicles include a Brazilian child in the list of the missing. Lorenzo Leone, 5, was believed to be in Chaplain Towers Unit 512 with his father, Alfredo Leone, when the building collapsed. The information was published by the New York Times and the Miami Herald, as well as by the news network CBS News. Lorenzo is the son of Brazilian Raquel Oliveira.
Raquel Oliveira posted on her social media profile on Friday that “The searches do not stop and will continue for days. That night I left my DNA to compare it to that of unidentified children. , as they find it “. BBC News Brasil has contacted relatives of Raquel and Lorenzo, but has received no feedback.
At least 18 other Latin Americans are among the missing.
Run against time
In the first hours after the collapse, firefighters rescued 35 people alive.
But with each passing minute, the hope of finding survivors diminishes. The death toll is expected to increase dramatically.
“We are facing enormous difficulties with this fire,” Levine Cava said on Saturday morning.
The mayor explained that a trench was dug in the rubble to control a fire located “very deep” under the remains of the 12-story building.
In the afternoon, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said they were finally able to bring the blaze under control, but the flames were not completely extinguished.
The rain of the last few days also made the whole process difficult.
The complex has more than 130 apartments, of which 80 were occupied. About 55 of them collapsed.
Rescuers used infrared, sonar and video technology to detect where the fire was coming from.
Heavy machinery is also used to move debris and specialized search dogs for people sniffing the rubble.
Risk for the team
Levine Cava said rescuers were at “extreme risk” when walking through the wreckage.
The fire beneath the mountain of concrete, metal and other materials created problems with smoke and air quality, adding to the difficulty such a rescue already presents.
“The stench is very strong,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said of the location on Saturday morning.
“As we move the wreckage, smoke accumulates. We have yet to find any sign of life,” Fire Chief Cominsky admitted on Saturday, adding that rescuers will continue their search.
“It’s a very difficult situation, but we hope to find someone alive.”
“We have specialized structural engineers on site to make sure no one is injured,” said Levine Cava.
“We still have hope. We will continue to search. We are looking for living people, it is our priority and our teams have not stopped,” said the mayor.
In a nearby street, a memorial was erected with candles, flowers and messages of support, along with dozens of photos of the missing.
“I want answers”
Far from the fusion zone, the frustration of family members grows.
“We are not doing enough,” American Mike Salberg told AFP news agency.
He went from New York to Miami to accompany the search as he has five members of his family, including his parents, among the missing. “I want answers,” he said.
“It’s impossible that in four days they haven’t found anyone,” a visibly irritated mother said in a meeting with authorities, according to a video posted by CNN television.
“I know they are doing everything they can, but they made us a promise that they cannot keep, that they cannot keep,” said the woman, whose daughter is one of the missing.
Although many hours have passed since the collapse on Thursday morning, authorities are trying to encourage family members not to give up hope.
“Our experience tells us that at least in the first 72 hours, there is a high probability of finding people alive,” Danny Cardeso of firefighters told CBS News.
Teams of engineers and rescue specialists from Israel and Mexico are on their way to Miami to help with the search.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the main obstacle was not a lack of resources.
“We have a problem of luck. We need a little more luck,” he said.
The Chaplain Towers is a 12-story, 130-apartment beachfront condominium in North Miami Beach.
According to a BBC News Mundo survey of the city’s real estate websites, the apartments had a market value between $ 600,000 and $ 700,000 (R $ 3 million to R $ 3.5 million). But there was a three-bedroom apartment on the top floor with marble flooring that was for sale in May for almost $ 3 million (around R $ 15 million).
Reports from local media indicate that residents included artists, relatives of politicians, renowned doctors and members of Florida’s Jewish community.
Construction of the building was completed in 1981, according to official city data.
As the regulations in force establish that constructions of this type must undergo an inspection at 40 years to guarantee their habitability, the building was under construction in order to be inspected by specialists and obtain its recertification, according to the local authorities.
“Work was underway on the building to meet the 40-year standard. This is something that has been implemented not only for the county but for all counties and we have had a strict building code since Hurricane Andrew for updates and improvements. Miami-Dade County Inspector Sally Heyman.
According to the mayor of Surfside, the building was undergoing a roof maintenance, but he does not specify the possible relationship between this work and the collapse.
He said he couldn’t think of any reason for the tragedy, but suggested the possibility of a crater under the building or a problem with the foundations.
A realtor who sells properties in the building told the Miami Herald that the Chaplain Towers complex was “in good shape” and “repairs are just beginning” for recertification.
According to the newspaper, the residents’ association recently hired an engineer to make the structural and electrical changes needed to get the new permit, but work had not yet started.
Peter Dyga, president and CEO of the Florida East Coast Builders and Contractors Association, told the local CBS affiliate that there is likely a conjunction of “multiple factors” behind what happened. past and that it will take years to determine the causes of the tragedy.