BY BRENDAN COLE
The death toll from a collapsed apartment complex in Florida has risen to four amid fears that the number is likely to increase significantly as missing persons are named.
As rescue workers throughout the night combed the rubble of a wing of the 12-story beachfront residential building Champlain Towers South in Surfside, just north of Miami Beach, hopes of finding more survivors have faded.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters on Friday morning, according to NBC News, that there were 120 people accounted for from the building and 159 people unaccounted for, adding that the death toll had gone from one to four.
Miami-Dade county mayor on apartment building collapse: “We’re focused right now on search and rescue.”https://t.co/I7VDTaOIjo pic.twitter.com/JcJfNc28GD
“Tragically, I woke up to learn that three bodies had been pulled from the rubble last night,” she said, telling ABC News’ Good Morning America that it was “devastating news for families waiting for any hope of survival. And of course, we’re going to continue to search.”
Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said the rescue operation could take a long time and that it “could be weeks until we really know who is under the rubble, who survived, who didn’t survive,” according to NBC News.
“There’s a lot of people unaccounted for, lot of families very concerned,” Salzhauer added.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett had earlier told reporters the building was “literally pancaked,” describing how it was “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,” USA Today reported.
Media outlets such as CBS Miami shared images of some of the missing, which included entire families. People have appealed to the public for information on those not accounted for, which reportedly include relatives of the first lady of Paraguay, Silvana López Moreira Bó.
Leticia Robertti, from the Consul General of Paraguay in Miami, told USA Today the sister of the first lady—Sophia Lopez Moreira Bó, the sister’s husband, Luis Pettengill, their three children and their nanny, Lady Luna Villalba, were among Paraguayans who were missing.
As of Thursday night, 37 people have been rescued.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue assistant chief of operations Ray Jadallah said sonar devices detected signs that could potentially be from some of the 99 people still missing.
“We did receive sounds, not necessarily people talking, but sounds,” Jadallah said, The Independent reported.
99 people unaccounted for from the Surfside building collapse.
Going to thread together some of the people being reported as missing by loved ones.
- Michael Altman, Unit 1101.
His family has checked the hospitals & filed a report. @CBSMiami pic.twitter.com/kaOoBuJG1M
— Frances Wang (#FrannyInMiami) (@FrancesWangTV) June 24, 2021
Footage tweeted by CBS showed the rescue of a boy from the rubble. Meanwhile, a mother and child were rescued, although the woman’s leg had to be amputated to extricate her from the rubble, Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade emergency management, told the Miami Herald.
A state of emergency has been declared and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived to help recovery efforts.
A family reunification hotline has been set up at 305-614-1819 and a Family Assistance Center established at the Surfside Community Center 9301 Collins Avenue.
The apartment building was only 40 years old when it collapsed about 1.30 am local time Thursday morning and officials were in the process of inspecting the building before it fell, according to the Miami Herald.
The Miami-Dade County Police Department said that authorities will investigate the incident following the search and rescue operations.