Las autoridades dieron cuenta este miércoles del hallazgo de otros cuatro cuerpos en el derrumbe parcial de un edificio residencial en Surfside, en Miami-Dade, con lo que la cuenta oficial de fallecidos por el siniestro se elevó a 16.
En una rueda de prensa, la alcaldesa del condado Miami-Dade, Daniella Levine Cava, dijo que tras la extracción de los cuatro cuerpos y el cruce de información entre las distintas agencias el número de desaparecidos se cifra ahora en 147 y el de las personas localizadas en 139.
Tanto el gobernador de Florida, Ron DeSantis, como la alcaldesa de Miami-Dade, se refirieron a cómo puede afectar las ondas tropicales que avanzan hacia el Caribe y puede dar lugar a tormentas con nombre las tareas de búsqueda en el lugar del derrumbe.
DeSantis recordó que estamos en la temporada de huracanes y se están tomando “muy seriamente” los sistemas que están en camino, por lo que tomarán las “medidas necesarias por si hay que responder”.
La alcaldesa mencionó que las inclemencias del tiempo han acompañado las tareas de búsqueda y rescate desde el inicio, pero no las han interrumpido y así va a seguir.
“Vamos a hacer todo lo humanamente posible para salir adelante y vamos a hacerlo juntos”, dijo Levine Cava.
Uno de los jefes de los equipos de rescate, dijo que ha solicitado un equipo adicional, que llegará hoy mismo, a los ocho ya presentes y otras medidas para responder a un posible ciclón.
Según dijo, en Florida los equipos de control de emergencias están acostumbrados a trabajar en situaciones de “emergencia múltiple”.
La parte que mira al mar del condominio Champlain Towers se desplomó la madrugada del 24 de junio y redujo a escombros más de 50 unidades del total de 136 que tenía, y desde entonces las cuadrillas de rescate bregan por hallar posibles sobrevivientes.
La alcaldesa señaló hoy que van a colaborar en la investigación de un gran jurado, que es lo que planea solicitar la Fiscalía de este condado, a la vez que prosigue la auditoría encargada en edificios de más de cuatro plantas y de 40 años de antigüedad o más.
Las auditorías y reuniones con expertos que están manteniendo, dijo Levine Cava, buscan “garantizar que una tragedia como esta nunca más vuelva a suceder”. EFE
As the condo collapse death toll reaches 16, workers searching for 147 people will fight dwindling odds and bad weather
By Madeline Holcombe and Holly Yan, CNN
(CNN) A seventh day of scouring wreckage from the Florida condo collapse has resulted in only sobering news so far.
Four more victims have been found, raising the death toll from the disaster in Surfside to 16, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday.
She said 147 people remain unaccounted for after 55 units of Champlain Towers South crashed to the ground in the middle of the night Thursday.
About 139 people are accounted for, but that figure includes the victims killed, the mayor said. Moving forward, she said any new victims found will not be included in that count.
As hundreds of rescuers — some from overseas — keep digging through the precarious mountain of rubble, some are trying to reconcile hope with realism.
“We must be realistic,” said Col. Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit.
“Tomorrow will be one week. So until one week, I still hope.”
Sara Nir said she heard what sounded like construction noises around 1:10 a.m. Thursday.
She went to talk to the security guard about the noise but was interrupted by a terrifying sound.
“There was a big boom, and I was running to see where the sound came from,” Nir told CNN’s John Berman.
“And I saw all the garage collapse. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I (was) in a movie.”
She was able to escape with her son and daughter. Two loud booming noises later, all they could see were white clouds of dust.
The cause of the collapse has not been confirmed. But early signs point to some failure in the lower reaches of the building, perhaps in its foundation, columns or underground parking garage.
Michael Stratton told the Miami Herald he was on the phone with his wife, Cassondra, when she told him their condo was shaking just before the collapse.
She was looking outside and told him she saw “a sinkhole where the pool out her window used to be,” Stratton told the Miami Herald.
A 2018 report, which Surfside has released among other public records, noted problems with the building’s concrete.
“Abundant cracking and spalling of various degrees was observed in the concrete columns, beams and walls,” the report said. “Several sizeable spalls were noted in both the topside of the entrance drive ramp and underside of the pool/entrance drive/planter slabs, which included instances with exposed, deteriorating rebar. Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion.”
The waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive was failing and causing “major structural damage,” according to the report.
The report didn’t say the structure was at risk of collapse.
More than $1.9 million has been raised to help those affected by the disaster, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.
Some of those donations made to SupportSurfside.org have already been distributed to at least a dozen families in need and a handful of nonprofits.
The building’s tennis center has been transformed. Now, it functions as a respite for the first responders, and the walls are adorned with flowers and photos memorializing those killed or unaccounted for.
Laura Hernandez, a babysitter, used to spend hours on that court with Graciela Cattarossi while her daughter, Stella, played with the children Henandez babysat, she told CNN affiliate WSVN. Both, along with Graciela’s parents and sister, have been reported missing.
“In September I’m going to go back with the kids, but Stella and Grace are not going to be there. It makes my heart break,” Hernandez told the station.
“Most of the collapse is very, very tight. The collapse was major,” Vach said.
Rescue crews will soon face another challenge: inclement weather.
Rain and thunderstorms are expected Wednesday and Thursday, with the potential for strong winds and lightning.
But canine crews will not be hampered after stormy weather, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Wednesday.
He said two teams of dogs — one searching for survivors, the other looking for victims — are able to follow scents even after wind and rain.
Despite all the challenges of finding survivors, “I can tell you that none of us have lost hope,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Eddy Alarcon said.
He said searchers will keep “hammering away and cutting away in hopes that we can find somebody,” he said. “We’re always praying for somebody to be alive, but at the very least it gives some closure to the families waiting to hear from their loved ones.”
A survivor says the garage collapsed
One survivor who fled with her family said the collapse may have started in the area of the pool deck and parking garage.
Escapes and rescues
Iliana Monteagudo, 64, woke up in the middle of the night Thursday to a strange sound. Then, she saw a crack snaking down her wall.
Barefoot, she ran from her sixth floor unit down the stairs, hearing thunderous noises and climbing over several walls as she raced toward safety, according to CNN affiliate WPLG.
“I start going down, fast, and I hear crack, crack, crack,” she said. “I start to scream, ‘Come on God, I want to see my son, I want to see my grandson. Don’t let me die in this condition.'”
Once outside she called her son to say she was OK, but that the building behind her had collapsed.
“Three seconds separate me, the life to the death. Three seconds,” she told the station.
Esther Gorfinkel, 88, was carried out of the building by neighbors as she headed slowly down the staircase.
When she told Albert Aguero, a man who carried her, that she lived a good 88 years and didn’t need to be rescued, he told her “No, you’re going to make it to your 89th birthday,” Aguero told CNN affiliate WPLG.
“I saw the sky. I knew I will be safe,” Gorfinkel said.
Engineers look for ‘trigger events’
Because of the disaster, a building audit is underway across the county, and that audit has already uncovered serious issues, Mayor Levine Cava said.
“Our building officer notified one of those properties, a building in northeast Dade, that four balconies must be immediately closed to residents due to safety conditions,” the mayor said Tuesday.
“We’re taking swift action to immediately identify and address any outstanding issues with the buildings that have not yet completed their 40-year certification process — that’s our priority right now,” she said.
Levine Cava said she expects all issues the audit turns up will be addressed in a matter of weeks.
Eliana Salzhauer, the commissioner of Surfside, said the condo association had a report about the building’s condition, and she thinks they didn’t do enough.
“In hindsight, they should have made more noise. They had this report, they had a report, it said very clearly, ‘Your building is in bad shape,'” she said.
Donna DiMaggio Berger, an attorney for the condominium board, said she didn’t think the building was in a state of disrepair prior to its collapse.
“We have months and years to dig into what happened, and we’re going to. The board is already in the process of hiring an engineer to also try to figure out what happened, and they will be evaluating who’s responsible.”
Allyn Kilsheimer, a structural engineer who has investigated the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City bombing, has been hired by the city to investigate the collapse.
Engineers are looking to see what the “trigger event” was for the collapse, Kilsheimer said.
Kilsheimer said the investigation will take a long time as it looks into all possible scenarios.
CNN’s Gregory Lemos, Brandon Miller, Kay Jones, Camille Furst, Jason Hanna and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.