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Building collapse in Florida: “I just pray for a miracle”

As of: 06/27/2021 3:12 a.m.

It’s a race against time: for several days, rescue workers have been looking for possible buried victims around the clock after the partial collapse of a large residential building in Florida. A fifth fatality has now been found.

After the partial collapse of a twelve-story apartment building in the US state of Florida, a fire made the search for missing people difficult. The mayor of Miami-Dade district, Daniella Levine Cava, said at the scene of the accident in Surfside near Miami that it was extremely difficult to locate the origin of the fire under the rubble, isolate it and put it out. This hinders the search for possible buried subjects. The rescue workers use all available instruments to fight the fire and at the same time continue to search for possible survivors.

The building near the beach with around 130 residential units had partially collapsed on Thursday night. The misfortune surprised people in their sleep. Since then the desperate search for possible survivors has been going on. The search operation was also hampered by rain. Rescue teams were on duty with sniffer dogs, special cameras and heavy equipment. “We still have hope,” said Cava.

However, another fatality has now been found. Rescue workers discovered another lifeless body in the rubble, said Cava. The number of identified dead has risen to five. The search forces also found other as yet unidentified “human remains”.

Relatives have hung photos of the dead and missing on a fence. Mourners have flowers and candles have been placed there.

Image: AFP

Between fear and confidence

According to Cava, more than 150 people are still missing. The authorities had emphasized that the missing people did not necessarily all have to be in the building. Local media reported that DNA samples were taken from relatives to identify victims. So far, more than 35 people have been rescued.

Some relatives of missing residents continue to hope. Between fear and confidence, they follow the search for the emergency services. “I’m just praying for a miracle,” said Rachel Spiegel, whose 66-year-old mother Judy lived on the sixth floor of the house. Others have already given up hope. Jeanne Ugarte said she must come to terms with the fact that her long-time friends and their son are no longer alive. “I know they won’t find her (alive),” said Ugarte. “It’s been too long.”

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Report lists construction defects

The cause of the partial collapse is still unclear. The residential complex known as Champlain Towers South dates from the 1980s. At the weekend, an inspection report from 2018, written by an external company, in which experts listed several deficiencies, became public. Among other things, there is talk of “considerable structural damage”. Cracks in the concrete, dilapidated pillars and damage that required costly and extensive maintenance are listed in the report.

Whether these could be in any way related to the collapse remained open. Levine Cava stressed that she was not previously aware of the report. The authorities would follow up on all leads and investigate the cause of the accident so that something like this would never happen again, she promised.

In the meantime, it will also check whether other similarly old buildings are safe. In order to release additional funds and material after the accident, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis had declared a state of emergency. This was confirmed by President Joe Biden on Friday so that federal funds can also be made available. The disaster control agency FEMA is also involved.

House Collapse in Florida – Fewer and Less Hope for Survivors

Jule Käppel, ARD Washington, June 27th, 2021 6:33 am

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