With a huge rescue effort still underway by emergency crews desperately searching for survivors trapped in the rubble of a collapsed 12-story Miami condo tower, Florida governor Ron DeSantis (FL-R) praised first responders at a press conference.
“They were on that scene before we knew whether there would be more collapse,” he said. “We didn’t know whether the building had any structural integrity and they were shepherding people to safety and they absolutely saved people’s lives.”
He added, “We really appreciate all that they have done and they are continuing to do.”
Officials stated that 55 of the 135 units in the building have been destroyed. Only 35 residents, including those killed, have been removed from the rubble. There is mounting concern about a second collapse occurring, reported ABC7 News.
Earlier on Thursday, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett described how “the building literally pancaked.”
"That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean, to me, that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive,” Burkett said.
DeSantis urged people to give investigators time to examine the rubble in order to piece together what caused the back section of the Surfside building to fall apart so suddenly.
“This is not necessarily going to be immediate in terms of what ended up happening, but I know they are going to have engineers looking at this to try to identify what happened, and what was the problematic occurrence,” he told the media. “And probably you aren’t going to have those answers immediately but I know they are going to be diligently working to be able to do that."
There are still 51 unaccounted for residents of the building, part of Champlain Towers South.
As many as 25 of those residents may be Jewish.
Hatzalah, Chesed Shel Emes and Miami Police Chaplain Rabbi Mark Rosenberg are at the scene trying to locate missing victims.
DeSantis called the collapse a "really, really tragic situation."
“The first responders were able to save a lot of people. They are going to be going through more and, you know, it’s a really, really tragic situation so we’ll hope for the best in terms of additional recoveries, although we are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing.”
Former Surfside mayor and building resident Barry Cohen, 63 told the Associated Press that he and his wife were asleep when he mistook a loud boom for thunder. They first stood on their balcony and then opened their front door where they discovered “a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around.”
“I couldn’t walk out past my doorway,” said Cohen who described the hall as “a gaping hole of rubble.”
The couple were able to get to the basement where they discovered rising water. They went back upstairs where they screamed for help.
Eventually, fire crews used a cherry-picker to rescue them from the remains of the building.
Cohen had long ago voiced concerns about nearby construction. He wondered if the work might have caused structural damage to the building. He noticed cracked pavers on the pool deck.
In an interview with Miami television station WPLG, Surfside City Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said that the building was in the middle of a county recertification process that takes place every 40 years.
She told the station that she was unaware of any issues the inspection had discovered. A building inspector had been going over the building on Wednesday hours before the collapse occurred.
“I want to know why this happened,” Salzhauer said. “That’s really the only question.”
She’s now concerned about other buildings in the area.
“And can it happen again? Are any other of our buildings in town in jeopardy?”