Barry Cohen and his wife are among dozens of missing residents who may be trapped in the rubble following the early Thursday morning collapse of a 12-story, 136-unit Surfside condo tower north of Miami Beach. Twenty of the missing are Jewish (20 Jews Among Missing Persons in Florida’s Surfside Condo Building Collapse). One person was pronounced dead.
Survivors described their experience as being “hit like a missile,” and the authorities say that with so many people still missing, they fear many more fatalities. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said on Thursday afternoon that out of 102 building residents, 99 were unaccounted for. Since then, almost three dozen people were rescued, but authorities still expect the death toll to rise.
The search for survivors beneath an unstable heap of rubble continues, and search teams have detected sounds of banging on Thursday but did not hear human voices. The teams attempted to tunnel through the partially collapsed floors in search of spaces where survivors may have found shelter. They also installed sonar devices and cameras, while some sections continued to collapse and a fire broke out.
Miami-Dade assistant fire chief Ray Jadallah told reporters on Thursday that the process of searching for survivors “is slow and methodical,” because “any time we started breaching parts of the structure, we get rubble falling on us.”
North Miami Beach Commissioner Fortuna Smukler told the Miami Herald that the parents of her childhood friends were missing in the rubble. “They’re an older couple and Arnie wasn’t walking well,” she said, adding that the elderly couple’s three daughters were devastated.
Hatzalah official Yosef Dahan said “many Jews are missing,” noting that “some of the names are known to me,” since “Many Jews live in the building itself.”
According to the Miami local NBC station, scientists have long ago warned about the danger in constructing a residential hi-rise on the shifting sands of the barrier island Miami Beach, especially as the sea levels are rising. However, the reason for this collapse has not yet been declared.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Thursday in response to the tragedy.
President Joe Biden said, ahead of DeSantis’ declaration, “I’m waiting for the governor to ask for a declared emergency, especially when we learn about what might happen with the rest of the building. So we are on top of it, we are ready to move from the federal resources immediately.”