With almost 160 people missing and at least four dead after a beachside condominium tower collapsed into a smoldering mass of twisted metal and concrete, rescuers combed through the ruins on Friday using both heavy equipment and their own hands in an increasingly desperate search for survival. As teams of firemen in Surfside, Fla., just north of Miami, worked to find and rescue anyone still alive in the wreckage of the 12-story Champlain Towers South, hopes were riding on how soon rescuers using dogs and microphones could finish their tragic yet delicate operation.
“We concentrate on those places whenever we hear a sound,” said Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raide Jadallah. “It may just be steel twisting, or debris showering down, but not definitely sounds of tapping or human voice.” According to a Global Affairs Canada representative, preliminary reports indicate that at least four Canadian citizens “may be affected” by the collapse.
Consular officials are in contact with impacted families and local authorities, according to an email from a spokeswoman on Friday. Two massive cranes began lifting rubble from the pile using large claws Friday morning, producing a racket of breaking glass and metal as they picked up the material and deposited it to the side, buffeted by high winds and pummelling by sporadic rain showers. The area was enveloped in a thick cloud.
When the machines came to a halt, firemen wearing safety masks and carrying red buckets clambered atop the mound to remove smaller pieces by hand in the hopes of locating areas where people might be trapped. Rescuers in knee-deep water used power tools to dig into the building from below in a parking garage. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett stated that firefighters were doing everything they could to save as many people as possible.
The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden, who spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis following the collapse, was receiving Homeland Security briefings. Officials said they still don’t know how many residents or tourists were in the building when it collapsed, but they were looking for 159 individuals who were thought to be missing and could have been there.
Flowers placed in respect lined a fence outside the tower, while people waiting for news about the search stood nearby, hands interlocked and hugging. Congregants prayed at a nearby synagogue, where several members were missing. Three more remains were taken overnight, and Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez stated that authorities were collaborating with the medical examiner’s office to identify the victims. There were eleven injuries reported, with four persons being treated in hospitals.