The Latest on Miami Condo Collapse: Live Updates
Under the gray skies of Surfside, Florida, uncomfortable storm winds blew over what remained of the South Champlain Towers as authorities first opened the site of a shocking condo collapse in limited public overview.
The ruins of the condo looked huge, a towering pile of floor tiles, shattered walls, air conditioners in the air, and jagged metal rods stretched out like claws – at least two floors in total, too intimidating for anyone to see. understand what it was once encompassed.
But the wreck also looked very small compared to the 13-story building that once stood, in majestic brown and tan, its balconies overlooking Collins Avenue on one side and a sandy Atlantic beach on the other. How could 135 units – 135 homes – and an as yet unknown number of lives be reduced to this, a damp, dusty heap of concrete and metal where a community once thrived?
With 36 confirmed dead and 109 people still missing, workers behind the site worked hard as Tropical Storm Elsa approached, which was due to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning. The Miami Beach area was spared the worst of the storm, but more than 200 workers endured sweltering heat and rolling thunderstorms and lighting that at times forced them to suspend their research.
Much of the search took place behind the rubble wall, invisible from where reporters stood on the street.
Authorities allowed journalists on Tuesday evening to come a little closer to the remains of the condominium complex which partially collapsed on June 24; the rest were demolished on Sunday due to security concerns. The new vantage point offered a glimpse of the rescue site across the street, a place where not so long ago a visitor could have walked past the entrance sign, up the steps, and entered in the hall of the building. Heavy machinery trawled behind the site, digging through the rubble in a search-and-rescue effort that day after day gave no sign of life.
Standing near the wreckage, it wasn’t hard to see why.
What was once part of the roof of the residential tower at 8777 Collins Avenue was almost at street level, a dark exploded slab identifiable by a ventilation or exhaust system still in one piece, tilted at the top of the pile as a top hat. Debris was gushing out from every possible angle. Twisted metal tied together like tree branches. Even the planters on the sidewalk were cracked, a few surviving palm trees withering.
Almost everything was the same shade of brownish gray.
Closer to the front, rescuers wearing luminous helmets and fluorescent vests watched from the balconies of two neighboring buildings, one to the north and one to the south. In the street, two rescuers left and returned with a bite to eat. A fluffy little crisis-response dog stood nearby with his handler, apparently waiting to comfort workers as needed.
Engines roared fire trucks, excavators and generators, the sound of a desperate search that has now lasted for nearly two weeks.
On the site of the tennis courts where the residents once played, the tents of the construction workers now stood.
Around the corner, there was a sign inviting neighbors to visit a remnant of what looked to be another era, the weekly Surfside Farmers’ Market.
Search and rescue teams will continue to search for people in the rubble of Champlain Towers South after avoiding the worst of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is expected to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast Wednesday morning.
Forecasts last week suggested the storm could hit the Atlantic coast, prompting authorities to quickly demolish the still-standing part of the building in Surfside, north of Miami. But as the storm approached Florida, it became clearer that it was likely to strike north of Tampa.
The storm has the potential to dump up to nine inches of rain in parts of the state before moving north and bringing thunderstorm conditions to Georgia and the Carolinas.
Searches were still hampered by Tuesday’s storm, with crews being forced to suspend efforts after lightning nearby. Showers and winds up to 29 miles per hour could be felt in the Miami area, the National Weather Service said.
But the storm is now well northwest of the region where rescue efforts are approaching the two week mark. The death toll is officially 36, with more than 100 people still missing.
Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, was the first victim identified in the collapse of the condominium. She was the mother of Jonah Handler, a 15-year-old boy who was pulled alive from the rubble in a dramatic rescue as he begged rescuers, “Please don’t leave me. “
Antonio Lozano, 83 years old, and Gladys Lozano, 79 years old, were confirmed dead by Mr. Lozano’s nephew, Phil Ferro, the chief meteorologist of WSVN Channel 7 in Miami. Mr. Ferro wrote on Instagram: “They were such beautiful people. May they rest in peace. “
Luis Andres Bermudez, 26, lived with his mother, Ana Ortiz, 46 years old, and stepfather, Frank Kleiman, 55. Mr Bermudez’s father confirmed the death of his son on social media, writing in Spanish: “My Luiyo. You gave me everything… I will miss you all my life. We will meet again soon. I’ll never leave you alone. “
Manuel LaFont, 54, was a businessman who worked with Latin American companies. His former wife, Adriana LaFont, described him as “the best father”. Mr. LaFont’s 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter were with Ms. LaFont when the building collapsed.
Andreas Giannisopoulos, 21, was in South Florida to visit Mr. LaFont, a close friend of his father. He was studying economics at Vanderbilt University and had been a decathlon athlete in his high school. An image of him can be found on a mural outside the school’s athletic facilities.
Léon Oliwkowicz, 80 years old, and Cristina Beatriz Elvira, 74, were originally from Venezuela and had recently moved to Surfside, according to Chabadinfo.com, who said they were active in the Orthodox Jewish community in greater Chicago, where one of their daughters lives.
Marcus Joseph Guara, 52 years old, lived with his wife, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and their two daughters, Lucie Guara, 10 years old, and Emma Guara, 4 years old. Mr. Guara was remembered as a kind and generous man, a godfather of twins and a fan of hard rock music.
Hilda Noriega, 92, was a longtime Champlain Towers South resident who loved to travel and whose family described her as “unconditional love. “Hours before the collapse, she attended a celebration with relatives.
Michael David Altman, 50, came from Costa Rica to the United States in his childhood and was an avid racquetball player in his youth. “He was a warm man. He overcame a lot of obstacles in his life and always got through them ”, his son Nicholas, told the Miami Herald.
Also killed in the collapse were Ingrid Ainsworth, 66, and Tzvi Ainsworth, 68; Claudio Bonnefoy, 85 years old, and Maria Obias-Bonnefoy, 69 years old; Graciela Cattarossi, 48 years old; Magaly Elena Delgado, 80; Bonnie Epstein, 56, and David Epstein, 58; Nancy Kress Levin, 76, and Jay Kleiman, 52; Francis Fernandez Plasencia, 67 years old; Gonzalo Torre, 81 years old; and the 7 year old girl of a Miami firefighter, whom authorities have refused to name.