Families of 150 missing in condo collapse grow weary waiting for answers; Biden to visit Surfside, Florida, this week: What we know
Category: News & PoliticsVia: john-russell • one month ago • 20 comments
By: Christine Fernando and Jesse Mendoza (MSN)
SURFSIDE, Fla. - Six days after a condo building outside Miami collapsed, families of the 150 missing people are growing weary as they desperately wait for answers.
The death toll remains at 11, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday. Levine Cava said all the families have been notified by authorities.
As the Surfside community mourns, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he would visit the site of the collapsed building Thursday.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said he has received questions from frustrated families about why rescue efforts stopped during thunderstorms. Burkett said the fire chief told relatives he would get back to them with an answer.
Families wondered how long a person could survive under the heaps of rubble, Burkett said in a news briefing, adding he remains hopeful survivors will be found. Authorities reiterated that work at the site was a search-and-rescue effort. Workers sifted through the rubble, listening and looking for signs of life.
"Nobody is giving up hope here," Burkett said.
Biden announced he and first lady Jill Biden would go to Florida on Thursday.
Levine Cava said Tuesday at a news conference that Biden will meet with families of the deceased and missing.
Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden thinks an investigation should be launched into the collapse. During a news conference, Psaki was asked whether Biden believed the federal government had a role to play in examining infrastructure failures before the tragedy.
Psaki replied, "Certainly, we want to play any constructive role we can play with federal resources in getting to the bottom of it and preventing it from happening in the future."
The bodies of 11 people have been recovered from the site.
Monday night, Miami-Dade police released the names of victims who have been identified: Marcus Joseph Guara, 52, whose body was recovered Saturday; Frank Kleiman, 55, whose body was recovered Monday; and Michael Davis Altman, 50, whose body was recovered Monday.
Sunday night, the police identified Leon Oliwkowicz, 80; Luis Bermudez, 26; and Anna Ortiz, 46; all of whom were recovered Saturday. Christina Beatriz Elvir, 74, was recovered Sunday.
The first victim to be identified was Stacie Fang, 54, whose 15-year-old son was pulled alive from the wreckage. Also identified Monday: Antonio Lozano, 83; Gladys Lozano, 79; and Manuel LaFont, 54.
Questions about what brought a section of the Champlain Towers South down have intensified since the collapse last Thursday.
A letter in April, obtained by USA TODAY from the president of the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, said that damage to the building's basement garage had "gotten significantly worse" since an inspection two and a half years earlier and that deterioration of the building's concrete was "accelerating."
The letter offers a glimpse into what led up to the deadly collapse, suggesting millions of dollars in necessary repairs had been a subject of frustration among residents.
"We have discussed, debated, and argued for years now," the letter said.
The author, Jean Wodnicki, president of the association's board of directors, survived Thursday's collapse, a condo association attorney told the media.
Over seven pages, Wodnicki provided an overview of the major repairs required for the building. She noted an inspection that found a "major error" in the design of the building, crumbling concrete columns in the garage area beneath the structure, and predicted that failure to fix the problems in the "near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."
In her letter written about 30 months later, Wodnicki said, "the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse" since the first inspection. Read more here.
Rescuers rotate in 12-hour shifts; none severely injured
Hundreds of Miami-Dade County fire rescue workers rotated in 12-hour shifts, searching for any signs of survivors. No rescue workers have been severely injured, but one worker took took a 25-foot tumble, officials said.
"Every time there is an action, there is a reaction," said Raide Jadallah, assistant chief of rescue operations for the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Team, describing what he called a complex search-and-rescue operation.
Family members saw the danger firsthand Sunday when authorities allowed them to tour the site. "They witnessed a rescuer tumble 25 feet down the mound," he said.
Mayor Burkett said Tuesday that debris fell off the condo overnight, causing the western part of the building to be cordoned off because it was too dangerous to work there.
A portion of the tower that is standing remains a threat to first responders working directly below, said Alan Cominsky, Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue chief.
"We are constantly monitoring (the structure)," he said. "We have seismic graphs, lasers that are monitoring certain cracks on the building. ... Right now, we have been reassured, based on what we have seen, that the building has had no movement. So that's why we continue working."
Community members mourn
The flicker of candles and glowsticks dotted the oceanfront Monday night as a group gathered for a meditation and moment of silence on the beach near the rubble.
After the gathering, the group walked to a growing memorial near the building to lay flowers, notes and candles. A chain link fence is so full of sentimental ornaments that it is barely visible.
"Seeing this makes it a bit more real, which is saddening for me, but it's the truth," said Ciena Falcon, 11, who has a friend among the missing.
"When you are with people who are all grieving for the same cause, it just makes you feel a little better," she said.
Prosecutors pursue investigation, federal agency to conduct extensive probe
Prosecutors in Florida will pursue a grand jury investigation into the deadly collapse, officials said Tuesday.
Levine Cava said at a news conference that she fully supports such an investigation. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she would bring the matter before grand jurors soon
A federal investigation into what caused the Champlain Towers South collapse is already underway, officials said Monday afternoon at a news conference.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he spoke with representatives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who will conduct an investigation into the causes of the collapse. The NIST, founded in 1901, investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks and other incidents, including the Rhode Island nightclub fire in 2003, a tornado in Joplin, Missouri, in 2011 and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017.
"They have never done just a straight building collapse that wasn't involved with either hazards or acts of terrorism," DeSantis said. "This is going to be something that is important, and it is something that is going to be very thorough. ... It is going to take a long time. That is the kind of horizon they work on.''
DeSantis said more immediate investigations conducted by Miami-Dade County and the town of Surfside could shed some light more quickly and alluded to the possibility of state regulatory changes if necessary after those assessments.
"If there are things that need to be done at the state level, we obviously would want to get information as soon as possible," DeSantis said.