SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - Firefighters are working around the clock at the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside in hopes of finding survivors.
Just before 8 a.m. Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed the death toll reached a total of four. At least 35 people have been rescued, 159 remain unaccounted for and 120 people have been accounted for.
“We’re just searching 24 hours a day pulling out as many people as we can,” said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. “That’s the whole goal right now. Nothing else matters.”
The northeast corner of the condo collapsed at around 1:30 a.m., Thursday.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews could be seen in the basement after the collapse wading through water to find survivors.
On Friday, the search and rescue efforts remain a race against time as 130 firefighters work to find survivors.
The Florida Task Force 2, led by the Miami Fire Department, has since responded to the scene to help.
“The capabilities we have deploying are live-find K-9s, human remain K-9s, medical doctors, engineers, we have structural specialists, a team of 80 personnel,” said Grant Musser with Florida Task Force 2. “All 80 people have seen the video. They understand there are a lot of missing civilians out there, and they’re anxious to get out there to get to work to save some lives.”
Heavy machinery has since been brought to the scene to carefully remove pieces of debris one by one.
“Its not specifically human sounds, it could be tapping, it could be steel kind of twisting, it could be some of the debris kind of raining down, so we concentrate in those areas,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Ray Jadallah. “From below, we continue with using light machinery, saws, jackhammers as we continue to tunnel through underneath.”
Dozens of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue members, as well as first responders from other departments, have the near impossible task of rescuing survivors from the rubble.
“The level of exhaustion is enormous,” said State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis. “As soon as they come out, they’re carrying 80 pounds worth of gear, they’re carrying protective equipment, they’re carrying concrete saws. Everything has to be manual because of the sheer threat of building that is unstable, looming over them, as they are crawling and tunneling under debris.”
Firefighters have been getting assistance from the state.
Sixty to 70 firefighters are working two shifts in the basement parking garage.
“That building was in danger of collapsing, but they just ran right in, and they went and they grabbed a few people that were left over that couldn’t walk out on their own,” said Burkett. “That was amazing, so there’s a major silver lining to this very, very dark cloud.”
Burkett said the first responders will be recognized for their work when the time comes.
Families of the missing are trying to remain hopeful while they wait for word on their loved ones.
First responders and local leaders are trying to do the same.
“I’m hopeful, but reality is when we look at the rubble across the street, it’s possible that there may not be any survivors or many, but I remain hopeful,” one man said. “We have to stay hopeful at this point.”
“As the mayor had said, we have hope,” said Jadallah. “Every time that we hear a sound, we concentrate in that area.”
Fire rescue leaders have made it clear the rain will not stop rescue efforts.
Those who have missing loved ones should visit the Family Reunification Center at 9449 Collins Avenue or call 305-614-1819.
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