Surfside, Florida condo collapse: Rescue teams attract more resources as children are identified among 18 killed

Lucia Guara, 10, and Emma Guara, 4, were identified on Wednesday as two of 18 people confirmed to have been killed in the condominium collapse last week, Mayor Danielle Levine Cava said. There are still 145 people missing.

“Any loss of life – especially given the unexpected and unprecedented nature of this event – is a tragedy, but the loss of our children is too much to bear,” Cava said.

One of the girls was a Miami-Dade County public school student, school district superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. A total of 17 of Carvalho’s students lived in the building – he has contacted 15 and one is still missing, he said.

Now he says he is praying that their district does not have to mourn another student. “The weight in my heart is unbearable,” Carvalho told CNN.

Hoping to provide answers to the families of the missing, rescue teams worked tirelessly to break through 13 to 16 feet of concrete that collapsed while many residents slept.

Those at the Champlain Towers South site put in so much effort that a member of a fire team had to go to hospital for treatment for exhaustion, the State Fire Marshal told CNN. Florida, Jimmy Patronis.

Searching, in the dangerous and unstable rubble, is difficult, Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said on Wednesday, but officials are bringing more resources to ensure the job gets done and responders can rest.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a tweet On Wednesday 70 members of Pennsylvania-Task Force 1 were leaving to assist with search and rescue efforts. The team will be joined by task forces from New Jersey, Ohio and Indiana.

A new obstacle looms as Tropical Depression Five forms in the Atlantic – with Surfside in its extended forecast cone.

Residents offered a comprehensive insurance policy

Meanwhile, officials, investigators and members of the local community questioned the structural integrity of the building and whether more could be done to prevent the horror.

A class action lawsuit filed Monday became the third lawsuit against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association. He indicates that the condominium association had a duty to keep the building in a safe condition and in good working order.

In response to a lawsuit last week, an insurance company lawyer for the condominium association said on Tuesday the company would make its entire $ 1 million policy available to plaintiffs.

In a letter filed with a Florida judge overseeing the lawsuit, attorney Sina Bahadoran wrote that James River Insurance Company, the association’s commercial liability insurer, “has made the decision to voluntarily offer all of the limit of the attached policy to attempt to resolve all claims in this matter.

A national construction safety team has been set up to investigate the collapse, James Olthoff, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Based on the information we have gathered, we are able to recommend a full technical investigation under the National Construction Safety Teams Act. We will now establish a team to begin the painstaking process of collecting and analyzing all the information that might help us. determine the technical cause of the failure, ”said Judith Mitrani-Reiser, who heads the NIST team on site.

Olthoff said the investigation will be a technical fact-finding investigation, not fault-finding, and will not interfere with ongoing search and rescue operations.

Some reports suggest that the damage to the building was clearly reported to the board of directors before the collapse.

An April 2021 letter from the chairman of the condominium board to residents said some damage seen in a 2018 engineer’s report, including in the garage, “has worsened considerably.”

“The deterioration of the concrete is accelerating. The situation of the roof has deteriorated considerably, it was therefore necessary to incorporate major repairs to the roof,” reads the letter from the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Jean Wodnicki.

The 2018 report did not indicate whether the structure was at risk of collapsing. Condominium board attorney Donna DiMaggio Berger told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Monday that she didn’t think the building was in disrepair before it collapsed.

“We have months and years to dig into what happened, and we’re going to do it. The board is already hiring an engineer to try to figure out what happened as well, and they will assess who is responsible. “

CNN has contacted representatives of the condominium association for further comment.

Stories emerge of precious moments survivors had to miss

The collapse happened in the early morning hours of June 24, and while some families told miraculous stories about the few seconds they had to figure out what was going on and escape, others have talked about terror.

Ashley Dean’s sister, Cassie Stratton, is among the missing. She told CNN that Stratton called her husband to tell him the pool was collapsing and the ground was shaking.

Stratton started screaming loudly and then the phone went off, Dean said.

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“It was very hard to know that was my sister’s last words and just the terrifying times she went through in the last moments before, you know, before and while it was falling apart,” Dean said. to CNN’s John Berman.

Iliana Monteagudo was awakened from her sleep that day around 1:00 a.m. by what she described as “a rare force,” she told Cuomo. She thought she left the balcony door open, so she ran to shut it. But then she saw the ceiling where a crack had started to form, and from there things started to go downhill quickly, she said.

“Something inside of me said to run,” she said. “You have to run and save your life.”

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Dave Shortell, Chris Boyette and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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