Rescue teams are entering their seventh day in search of the rubble of a collapsed building in Surfside, Florida – still hoping to find the 149 people missing.
“I can tell you that none of us gave up hope,” said Miami-Dade Fire Captain Eddy Alarcon. “We’re going to walk up to this pile and start hammering and cutting in the hopes of finding someone… We still pray that someone is alive, but at the very least it gives a bit of closure. to families who are waiting to hear from their loved ones. “
The condo building, Champlain Towers South, partially collapsed in the middle of the night Thursday as many residents slept. Currently, 125 people have been counted and 12 have been confirmed dead.
US and international teams are looking for chambers buried under 13 to 16 feet of concrete, said Colonel Golan Vach, commander of Israel’s National Rescue Unit.
“There is still hope,” Vach told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “For up to a week, I have a strong hope that we will find someone. After a week, it’s minor.”
Alarcon said he had no idea how long the rescue and recovery efforts would take, especially as the 24-hour work barely scratched the surface of debris removal. But he said the crews were motivated by understanding the families’ perspective.
“What would I do?” How much effort will we work to save our family members if something like this were to happen? He told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I just want (the families) to know that we are doing all we can.”
And many in the community are looking for ways to help those affected as well.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said more than $ 1.9 million was raised to help those affected on Tuesday, and some of those donations made to SupportSurfside.org have already been distributed to at least a dozen families in need and to a handful of nonprofits.
The building’s tennis center has been transformed. Now it functions as a respite for first responders, and the walls are adorned with flowers and photos commemorating the missing and the 12 who died.
Laura Hernandez, a babysitter, spent hours on the pitch with Graciela Cattarossi while her daughter, Stella, played with the children Henandez was babysitting, she told CNN affiliate WSVN. The two, along with Graciela’s parents and sister, have been reported missing.
“In September, I’ll be going back with the kids, but Stella and Grace won’t be there. It breaks my heart,” Hernandez told the station.
Those who survived the collapse told harrowing stories of their escapes.
Iliana Monteagudo, 64, woke up in the middle of the night on Thursday with a strange noise. Then she saw a crack winding along her wall.
Barefoot, she ran from her sixth-floor unit up the stairs, hearing thunder noises and scaling several walls as she ran to safety, according to CNN affiliate WPLG.
“I’m starting to come down, fast, and I hear crack, crack, crack,” she said. “I start screaming, ‘Come on my God, I want to see my son, I want to see my grandson. Don’t let me die in this state.'”
Once outside, she called her son to tell him that she was fine, but that the building behind her had collapsed.
“Three seconds separate me, life to death. Three seconds,” she told the station.
Sara Nir’s daughter had gone to take a shower and her son was busy when Nir heard what sounded like construction noises around 1:10 am She went to talk to the security guard about the night noise but was interrupted by a big boom and the garage collapses.
She ran to grab her family, she told CNN, and together they escaped. Two loud rumblings later and all they could see were white clouds from dust.
Esther Gorfinkel, 88, was taken out of the building by neighbors as she slowly descended the stairs.
When she told Albert Aguero, a man who carried her, that she had lived 88 years and that she did not need to be rescued, he told her “No, you will come to your 89th birthday” , Aguero told CNN. WPLG affiliate.
“I saw the sky. I knew I would be safe,” Gorfinkel said.
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