NATIONAL NEWS

Death Toll In Florida Collapse Rises To 4; 159 Remain Missing

Jun 25, 2021, 5:28 AM | Updated: 8:59 am
Search and Rescue personnel work after the partial collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South ...
Search and Rescue personnel work after the partial collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. It is unknown at this time how many people were injured as search-and-rescue effort continues with rescue crews from across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — About 160 people were still unaccounted for Friday after an oceanside condominium building collapsed into a pile of rubble, and searchers combing through a twisted, shifting heap of concrete and metal feared the death toll of at least four could go much higher.

With scores of firefighters working overnight to reach any possible survivors both from under and atop the remains of the building, hopes rested on how quickly crews using dogs and microphones to sift through the wreckage could complete their grim, yet delicate task.

“Every time we hear a sound, we concentrate on those areas,” said Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raide Jadallah.

Two heavy cranes began removing debris from the pile using large claws Friday morning, creating a din of crashing glass and metal as they picked up material and dumped it to the side.

Amid the work, Faydah Bushnaq knelt on the beach near the building’s remains and scratched “Pray for their souls” in the sand.

“We were supposed to be on vacation, but I have no motivation to have fun,” said Bushnaq of Sterling, Virginia. “It is the perfect time to say a prayer for them.”

Three more bodies were removed overnight, and Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said authorities were working with the medical examiner’s office to identify the victims. Eleven injuries were reported, with four people treated at hospitals.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescuers were at “extreme risk” going through the rubble.

“Debris is falling on them as they do their work. We have structural engineers on site to ensure that they will not be injured, but they are proceeding because they are so motivated and they are taking extraordinary risk on the site every day,” she said.

With searchers using saws and jackhammers to look for pockets large enough to hold a person, Levine Cava said there was still hope of finding people alive.

Wing Of Miami-Area Condo Collapses; Many Feared Dead

Those missing from what was left of the 12-story Champlain Towers South included people from around the world: a beloved retired Miami-area teacher and his wife. Orthodox Jews from Russia. Israelis. The sister of Paraguay’s first lady. Others from South America.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami Beach told the Miami Herald he watched as tactical teams of six worked early Friday to sift through the debris. He said he saw one body taken in a yellow body bag and another that was marked. They were taken to a homicide unit tent that was set up along the beach.

Many people remained at the reunification center set up near the collapse site early Friday morning, awaiting results of DNA swabs that could help identify victims.

Officials said no cause for the collapse has been determined.

Video of the collapse showed the center of the building appearing to tumble down first and a section nearest to the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later, as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.

About half the building’s roughly 130 units were affected, and rescuers used cherry-pickers to evacuate at least 35 people from the still-intact areas of the building in the first hours after the collapse. But with 159 still unaccounted for, work could go on for days.

Television video early Friday showed crews still fighting flareups of fires on the rubble piles. Intermittent rain over South Florida is also hampering the search.

Jadallah said that while listening devices placed on and in the wreckage had picked up no voices, they had detected possible banging noises, giving rescuers hope some are alive. Rescuers were tunneling into the wreckage from below, going through the building’s underground parking garage.

Personal belongings were evidence of shattered lives amid the wreckage of the Champlain, which was built in 1981 in Surfside, a small suburb north of Miami Beach. A children’s bunk bed perched precariously on a top floor, bent but intact and apparently inches from falling into the rubble. A comforter lay on the edge of a lower floor. Televisions. Computers. Chairs.

‘A Gaping Hole Of Rubble:’ Thankful Survivor Recounts Rescue

Argentines Dr. Andres Galfrascoli, his husband, Fabian Nuñez, and their 6-year-old daughter, Sofia, had spent Wednesday night there at an apartment belonging to a friend, Nicolas Fernandez.

Galfrascoli, a Buenos Aires plastic surgeon, and Nuñez, a theater producer and accountant, had come to Florida to get away from a COVID-19 resurgence in Argentina and its strict lockdowns. They had worked hard to adopt Sofia, Fernandez said.

“Of all days, they chose the worst to stay there,” Fernandez said. “I hope it’s not the case, but if they die like this, that would be so unfair.”

They weren’t the only South Americans missing. Foreign ministries and consulates of four countries said 22 nationals were missing in the collapse: nine from Argentina, six from Paraguay, four from Venezuela and three from Uruguay.

The Paraguayans included Sophia López Moreira — the sister of first lady Silvana Abdo and sister-in-law of President Mario Abdo Benítez — and her family.

Israeli media said the country’s consul general in Miami, Maor Elbaz, believes that 20 citizens of that country are missing.

Also missing was Arnie Notkin, a retired Miami-area elementary school physical education teacher, and his wife, Myriam. They lived on the third floor.

“Everyone’s been posting, ‘Oh my God, he was my coach,’” said Fortuna Smukler, a friend who turned to Facebook in hopes of finding someone who would report them safe.

“They were also such happy, joyful people. He always had a story to tell, and she always spoke so kindly of my mother,” Smukler said. “Originally there were rumors that he had been found, but it was a case of mistaken identity. It would be a miracle if they’re found alive.”

___

Associated Press writers Tim Reynolds and Ian Mader in Miami; Freida Frisaro and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale; Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; and R.J. Rico in Atlanta contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Cast members of NBC's comedy series "Friends." Pictured: David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Jennifer A...
KSL TV

Rolling Stone releases list of 100 greatest TV shows of all-time

A panel of actors, showrunners and critics helped compile the list, which was published Monday.
9 hours ago
In this NOAA handout image taken by the GOES satellite at 17:30 UTC shows Hurricane Ian as it moves...
CRISTIANA MESQUITA and CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press

Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Cuba en route to Florida

Hurricane Ian has made landfall in western Cuba, lashing the island with rain and winds as it barreled north toward the Florida coast.
9 hours ago
How to Beat Inflation...
CHRISTOPHER RUGABER, AP Economics Writer

Fed officials call for more rate hikes to fight inflation

The Federal Reserve will have to keep boosting its benchmark interest rate to a point that raises unemployment and gets inflation down from unusually high levels.
1 day ago
TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 26: Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) greets U.S. Vice President Ka...
CHRIS MEGERIAN and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

In Tokyo, Harris calls US-Japan alliance ‘a cornerstone’

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has arrived in Tokyo to lead a U.S. delegation to the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July.
1 day ago
AUSTIN, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 20: People wait to shop at the Costco Wholesale store as they look to purc...
Larry D. Curtis

Inflation will not change Costco’s $1.50 hot dog combo — perhaps ever

During a presentation about its fourth-quarter financials, the big box retailer's COO said the price of the hot dog and soda — $1.50 — remains unchanged and said it plans to hold the price "a little longer — forever," according to Market Watch.
1 day ago
An illustration shows NASA's DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency's LICIACube before the co...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

NASA’s DART mission successfully slams into an asteroid

A NASA spacecraft has intentionally slammed into an asteroid in humanity's first test of planetary defense.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Death Toll In Florida Collapse Rises To 4; 159 Remain Missing