The death toll in the building collapse in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, Florida, rose to 20 on Friday (2), after rescuers found two bodies in the middle of the wreckage. Among them, that of a seven-year-old girl, daughter of a Miami firefighter.
He is the third child to be found dead in the rubble of the South Champlain Towers, which collapsed in the early hours of June 24. Area Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the find was particularly difficult for firefighters, who have worked tirelessly to try to find survivors, which is less likely every day.
“Every victim that we remove is very difficult,” said area fire chief Alan Cominsky. “Last night it was even more true when we found the daughter of a colleague. As firefighters, we do what we do. It’s a kind of call, we always say that. But it is still costing us dearly.
When the girl’s body was removed, police and firefighters embraced and cried, said Elad Edri, deputy commander of an Israeli team working on the wreckage.
As of the ninth day of the search, there are still 128 missing, who could be buried under tons of sprayed concrete, twisted metal and splinters of wood. On Thursday the number was 145. Levina Cava said the tally is fluid as residents are still discovered safely elsewhere.
The search for survivors resumed late Thursday afternoon, after an interruption due to security concerns at the site.
At least 29 Latin Americans are among the missing. The list of the dead includes a Venezuelan and a Uruguayan-Venezuelan.
“I opened the door and there was no more hall”, says the Brazilian
Most of the residents were asleep at the time of the tragedy. However, Brazilian businesswoman Deborah Soriano, 58, was cleaning the house after inviting friends over for dinner. Suddenly she felt an explosion and was thrown across the room.
When he opened the door to his apartment, he found himself facing a void. “I had no idea what was going on, if it was a terrorist attack, if it was an earthquake, I couldn’t capture it,” he says. “I went to the terrace and saw it like a fog, I couldn’t see anything. I wanted to leave, I opened the apartment door and there was no hallway. There was nothing else. Everything was broken. “
Deborah lived on the 11th floor and the apartment next to hers was one that collapsed. He managed to get out by the fire escape, found other neighbors downstairs, but the doors were blocked with rubble.
“We found a hole in the wall, walked through that hole, went hole to hole until we managed to get out near the front of the building. Then the firefighters came up with a bunch of ladders. It was pretty crazy, in fact, I don’t even know how long it lasted.
Several of your upstairs neighbors are missing. She believes that being awake at the time of the tragedy made a difference so that she could save herself, as she was alert. To keep her cool, Deborah chatted with her son on the phone as she escaped.
She managed to change and retrieve her purse. “I was pretty crazy to pull out my purse, but I thought if something at least happened to me, there would be identification there with me.”
Erick de Moura, another Brazilian who lived in the apartment building, fled from the collapse when he responded to his girlfriend’s request to sleep at her house that night. Another Brazilian woman, a neighbor of the two, has fled because she was visiting her mother, but is awaiting news of her husband and her five-year-old son, who are missing.
Deborah had lived in the building for six years. The town hall told him and the other survivors that they did not expect to recover what was left inside the apartments. “The building moves a lot. Nobody wants to take the risk of sending someone there again, ”he says.
She now lives in a friend’s apartment and says she doesn’t remember what happened until she leaves the building. “The shock was too great. I think the plug won’t fall off for a few weeks. “
The Champlain South Tours complex, built 40 years ago, had 12 floors and 136 apartments. The block overlooking the sea collapsed, for reasons which are being investigated.
This Thursday (1), the President of the United States, Joe Biden, went to Surfside accompanied by his wife, Jill, to offer his condolences to the relatives of the victims and to meet with local authorities. The White House has ordered the dispatch of resources and agents to help with the search. Biden did not visit the landslide area, but attended the memorial set up a block away.
Only one teenager was pulled from the rubble in the early hours of the rescue operations. “You cannot deny the current situation: more than six days have passed since the collapse and the chances of finding people alive are slim,” said Elad Edri.
A report on the condition of the building indicated in 2018 “significant structural damage” as well as “cracks” in the parking lot of the building. The publication of a letter from the president of the association of co-owners dated April fueled the debate on the possibility of avoiding the disaster.