SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - Family members are reacting to the tragic partial building collapse in Surfside, as they continue to try and find their loved ones.
Relatives gathered at the family reunification center at 9301 Collins Ave. hoping to find more information about their loved ones’ whereabouts. The center will remain open until at least 3 a.m., officials said.
Families said they have been giving DNA samples to authorities, so they can build a database to help identify those who may still be trapped in the rubble.
Anita Bostwsen said she has six family members, including nieces and nephews, who lived in the building who she hasn’t heard from.
“We’re just waiting for a miracle,” she said.
Bettina Obias flew into Miami from Washington to visit her family. She was at the airport and was unaware of what happened. She later found out the building her uncle and aunt live in had crumbled.
“It’s as if God was telling me, ‘Be here today,'” she said. “When I went to pick up my baggage, my sister told me that her building collapsed.”
Claudio and Maria Bonnefoy live on the 10th floor of the Champlain Towers South Condominium.
“When I saw the building and I saw that side, I know they’re both gone,” Obias said. “I already know they’re gone.”
Meanwhile, Soraya Cohen is desperately searching for information on her husband, Brad Cohen.
“We can’t find him. He hasn’t responded for 15 hours,” she said. “I want to ask if anybody in any of the hospitals or trauma centers has seen him. His name is Brad Cohen.”
Cohen said her husband and his brother, Gary Cohen, were in unit 1007 of the condominium, and she begs more to be done at the site of the collapse.
“My daughter is just in absolute, absolute shock,” Cohen said. “I mean, like, I woke her up running into the room like, ‘Oh, my Gosh, you know, the building collapsed, and daddy’s in there, and nobody can find him. Hurry, wake up, we got to get to the Surfside Community Center.'”
“We’re praying for a miracle,” another woman said, “and my nephew was extremely disabled, so he was not able to walk– was or is, so we’re hoping, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what to think. I mean, it is horrible, so we’re praying for a miracle. I ask for everybody to pray for survivors and that we can find them.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission trucks were seen parked along the beach to keep people away from the building.
Rescue crews are listening and searching for anyone who might still be trapped in the rubble.
Another woman said she knows eight to 10 people who live in the building, and sometimes, she spends the night at the condominium. She left hours before the collapse.
When asked how many friends and family members were in the building when she left, she said, “All of them. I don’t want to talk about that right now.”
A man who spoke off-camera said he was looking for information on his wife’s whereabouts. He said he was on the phone with her around the time the building collapsed, and he does not believe she survived the collapse.
“This is Julio Velasquez, Angela Velasquez and Terry,” a woman said while holding a photo of her relatives. “I’ve been trying to reach them since 4 o’clock in the morning and have not been successful. Hopefully, they were together and able to help each other out, and they just lost their phones or something.”
Officials said one person has died and 35 people have been rescued so far. Search and rescue efforts continue into the night, and firefighters had to put out a fire that had started in the building’s basement.
“My niece and her husband and her son are in the seventh floor, which is right here. They were looking at the ocean,” said Alida Bostwick, who watched the rescue unfold from the beach. “I ask everyone to pray for survivors and that we can find them.”
“I just want to have my mom, and I just want to see her again,” Rachel Spiegel said. “My mom is the best person in the world. Her name is Judy Spiegel, and we have not stopped giving hope that she’s there and alive, and we’re just praying and praying.”
Those who live at the Champlain Towers South Condo are being asked to complete a Wellness Check Form as part of Miami-Dade County’s efforts to ensure all tenants of the building are located.
Families can also call 305-614-1819 to account for their loved one’s whereabouts.
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