A dozen people have died and another 149 remain missing after a 12-story residential building partially collapsed in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County last week, authorities said.
A massive search and rescue operation entered its sixth day on Tuesday, as crews continued to carefully comb through the pile of rubble in hopes of finding survivors. The partial collapse occurred around 1:15 a.m. local time last Thursday at the Champlain Towers South condo in the small coastal town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach. About 55 of the 136 units at the oceanfront complex were destroyed, according to Raide Jadallah, assistant chief of the Miami-Dade fire department.
Another body was discovered Tuesday afternoon, bringing the death toll to 12, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Meanwhile, 125 people who were living or staying in the condo at the time of the disaster have been tallied and are safe, Levine Cava told reporters, noting that the numbers are “very fluid.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett acknowledged that there have been questions about how long someone could survive under the rubble and told reporters: “There didn’t seem to be a good answer to that.” He but he insisted that search and rescue efforts continue unabated.
“No one is losing hope here. No one is stopping,” Burkett said during a news conference in Surfside on Tuesday. “We are dedicated to getting everyone out of that pile of rubble.”
MORE: What We Know About The Victims Of The Surfside Condo Collapse
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Surfside on Thursday, according to a statement from the White House. Last week, the president approved an emergency declaration in Florida and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts following the partial collapse of the building.
They want to thank the heroic first responders, the search and rescue teams and all those who have worked tirelessly around the clock, and meet with the families who have been forced to endure this terrible tragedy waiting with anguish and anguish for the word of loved ones “to offer them comfort as search and rescue efforts continue,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday. “And they want to make sure that state and local officials have the resources and support they need under the emergency declaration.”
Hope is not lost amid a ‘frantic search’ for survivors
The remaining structure that is still standing was cleared by rescue teams last week and all resources have been focused on the rubble since then, according to Jadallah. Hundreds of first responders and volunteers have been working around the clock to locate survivors or human remains in the rubble. However, heavy rains and thunderstorms have periodically forced them to halt their efforts.
An area of the site had to be cordoned off Tuesday due to falling debris, according to Burkett.
MORE: Surfside Building Collapse – Death Toll Rises to 11 as Search and Rescue Enters Day 5
Crews have cut a 125-foot-long, 20-foot-wide, 40-foot-deep trench through the pile to help improve their search, according to Levine Cava. As of Tuesday afternoon, they had moved more than 3 million pounds of concrete, which is equivalent to more than 850 cubic feet, according to Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky.
“This is a very tedious endeavor,” Cominsky said at Tuesday’s press conference. “We are moving debris piece by piece and looking through it.”
Crews have not yet physically reached the bottom of the pile, but cameras placed inside showed voids and air pockets where people could get trapped, according to Jadallah, who said they are not yet ready to transition their efforts. from rescue to recovery.
Meanwhile, dump trucks have begun moving debris to an alternate site, according to Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, who told reporters that rescuers have “all the resources” they need.
More than 80 rescuers, each working 12-hour shifts, are in the pile at once, listening for sounds and trying to break through the debris. Andy Alvarez, the Miami-Dade Fire Department Incident Deputy Commander who oversees search and rescue efforts, described the process as urgent and meticulous.