The United States feared a catastrophic death on Friday in the dramatic collapse of a residential building near Miami, with the death toll and the number of missing rising as rescuers continued their race against time to find survivors in the rubble.
At least four people have been killed in the unexplained disaster early Thursday morning.
In all, “120 people are located (…) but the number of people who have no news of us has risen to 159,” Miami-Date County Mayor Daniel Levine Cava told a news conference.
“We confirm that the death toll is now four,” he said, adding that the search for the wreckage continued because authorities “still have hope that people will be found alive”.
Firefighters and dog units have always been active in the rubble of this building, which is located within the southern campus of the Champlain Towers in the southeastern United States. Noise emerged from the rubble, without confirming that the rescued were of human descent.
President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency on Friday to provide federal assistance for emergency relief and resettlement activities.
According to Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, “almost a third of the missing are (…) foreigners”. “With embassies in various countries in Latin America, we help victims’ family members who need to come to the United States to obtain visas,” he tweeted on Thursday.
Among the missing are nine Argentines, three Uruguayans and six Paraguayans. Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Euclides Acevedo has confirmed that Sylvana Lopez Morera, the sister of the first lady of Paraguay, and her family are concerned.
According to witnesses, around 1:30 a.m., twelve sites collapsed, sending a large cloud of dust over several blocks.
“I was in a deep sleep, I heard a loud crash, it took an accident and lightning. But it continued, 15-20 minutes I would say,” testified 63-year-old Barry Cohen, who lives in the collapsed building.
Nicola Fernandez, an Argentine living in Miami, told AFP that friends of her family were staying on the campus. “I didn’t ask them. I do not know if they are alive or not … », the 29-year-old stumbled.
Dangerous recovery operation
Relief efforts continued uninterrupted during the night from Thursday to Friday, with local rain falling at 10pm despite the storm.
Rescuers “are very motivated by the opportunity to find people. We have to force them to do their rotation, which shows how strong their motivation is, ”said Mayor Daniel Levine Kawa.
“Activities are carried out with the utmost risk to these individuals. Garbage falls on them while they are doing their job,” he said.
The collapse of the entire section of this seaside resort affected about 55 apartments.
Surface is home to a large Jewish community and rabbis have rallied to support the exiled Jewish settlers and their loved ones.
The Jewish Telegraph reported in 2018 that the city, located north of Miami Beach, has a population of nearly 2,500 Jews out of a population of 6,000.
In addition to the “hotel rooms,” evicted residents receive “medicines, blankets and clothes” after being evacuated at midnight, Ms Levine Kawa said.
The reasons for the collapse of this residential complex are not yet known.
Work is underway to upgrade it, especially on the roof of the building, which many officials say cannot be attributed to the collapse.
The search took “at least a week,” another Surface officer, Andrew Hyatt, said Thursday.
Built in 1981, the building has more than 130 apartments, according to local media reports.