Four Canadians “may be” some of those affected by a 12-storey condo that collapsed near Miami Thursday, according to preliminary reports received by Global Affairs Canada.
As of Friday, about 160 people were still unaccounted for and four were confirmed dead from the tragedy, which struck a building home to full-time and part-time residents including snowbirds.
Three more bodies were removed overnight Thursday, and Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said authorities were working with the medical examiner’s office to identify the victims. Eleven injuries were reported, with four people treated at hospitals.
Firefighters are working in Surfside to reach any possible survivors from under and atop the remains of the Champlain Towers South, hopes rested on how quickly crews using dogs and microphones could complete their grim, yet delicate task.
“Any time that we hear a sound, we concentrate in that area,” Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said. “It could be just steel twisting, it could be debris raining down, but not specifically sounds of tapping or sounds of a human voice.”
Once the machines paused, firefighters wearing protective masks and carrying red buckets climbed atop the pile to remove smaller pieces by hand in hope of finding spots where people might be trapped.
“Debris is falling on them as they do their work. We have structural engineers on-site to ensure that they will not be injured, but they are proceeding because they are so motivated and they are taking an extraordinary risk on the site every day,” she said.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said crews were doing everything possible to save as many people as they could.
“We do not have a resource problem, we have a luck problem,” he said.
Nearby, visitor Faydah Bushnaq of Sterling, Virginia, knelt on the beach and scratched “Pray for their souls” in the sand.
“We were supposed to be on vacation, but I have no motivation to have fun,” Bushnaq said. “It is the perfect time to say a prayer for them.”
People missing from around the world
Many people waited at a reunification center for results of DNA swabs that could help identify victims.
The missing included people from around the world: A beloved retired Miami-area teacher and his wife; Orthodox Jews from Russia; Israelis; the sister of Paraguay’s first lady; others from South America.
Argentines Dr. Andres Galfrascoli, his husband, Fabian Nuñez, and their 6-year-old daughter, Sofia, had spent Wednesday night there at an apartment belonging to a friend, Nicolas Fernandez.
Galfrascoli, a Buenos Aires plastic surgeon, and Nuñez, a theater producer and accountant, had come to Florida to get away from a COVID-19 resurgence in Argentina and its strict lockdowns. They had worked hard to adopt Sofia, Fernandez said.
“Of all days, they chose the worst to stay there,” Fernandez said. “I hope it’s not the case, but if they die like this, that would be so unfair.”
Israeli media said the country’s consul general in Miami, Maor Elbaz, believes that 20 citizens of that country are missing.
Also missing was Arnie Notkin, a retired Miami-area elementary school physical education teacher, and his wife, Myriam. They lived on the third floor.
“Everyone’s been posting, ‘Oh my God, he was my coach,’” said Fortuna Smukler, a friend who turned to Facebook in hopes of finding someone who would report them safe.
“They were also such happy, joyful people. He always had a story to tell, and she always spoke so kindly of my mother,” Smukler said. “Originally there were rumors that he had been found, but it was a case of mistaken identity. It would be a miracle if they’re found alive.”
Officials said no cause for the collapse has been determined.
- with files from Sarah Grochowski
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