The confirmed death toll from a tragic condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida rose to 11 people Monday. More than 150 others are still missing. While rescue teams have been searching the rubble for the better part of five days, hope is fading for many of the families gathered by the site of the collapse. Amna Nawaz is joined by Mayor Gabriel Groisman of Bal Harbour, Fla., with the latest.
The confirmed death toll from that tragic condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, has now risen to 10 people. But more than 150 others are still missing.
It's dangerous work, and rescue crews maneuver on top of a precarious pile of crumbled concrete and twisted steel, desperately searching for signs of life.
In Surfside, Florida today, officials pled for patience.
Raide Jadallah, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief:
It's going to take time. It's not going to happen overnight. It's a 12-story building. It's going to take some time.
Day five of relentless rescue work and an agonizing wait for families of the missing.
Daniella Levine Cava, Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Florida: We're going to continue and work ceaselessly to exhaust every possible option in our search. I repeat, the search-and-rescue operation continues.
No survivors have been found since the hours after the building collapsed last Thursday. Aided by teams from Israel and Mexico, rescuers continued combing through the rubble with cranes and by hand.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Andy Alvarez said more than 80 workers at a time are trying to tunnel into spaces where survivors might be found.
Andy Alvarez, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief:
We have found voids within the building that we have been able to penetrate, mostly coming, obviously, from underneath the building through the basement of what used to be the garage.
It's a painstaking process. Radar, sonar, and sniffer dogs are being deployed, searching for signs of life. Families of the missing are being bused in to visit the site.
Pascale Bonnefoy's father, Claudio Bonnefoy, and his wife were in the building.
Pascale Bonnefoy, Daughter of Missing Person: We are just processing all this, but this is starting to make me angry, because reports from years are emerging about serious structural damage to the building.
A 2018 report by a consulting engineer hired to inspect the building said failed waterproofing of the pool deck caused — quote — "major structural damage" to concrete slabs underneath. It also found serious deterioration in the underground parking garage.
But, a month later, according to minutes from a board meeting obtained by NPR, a Surfside town inspector told residents the building was in — quote — "very good shape."
Questions remain about how those findings were both presented and handled at the time.
Surfside's mayor, Charles Burkett, promised to get to the bottom of it.
Charles Burkett, Mayor of Surfside,Florida: We directed our staff to go ahead and scan every shred of documentation that the town of Surfside has.
The number one priority today is to rescue people out of that rubble. Number two is to support the families. And then we will get to that. But just know that is in the works and we will be 100 percent transparent.
While rescue teams have been searching the rubble for the better part of five days, hope is fading for many of the families gathered in Southern Florida.
I'm joined now by Mayor Gabriel Groisman of Bal Harbour, Florida. He has been at the site of the scene for several days, speaking to search-and-rescue teams and spending time with the families of victims.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for making the time to be with us.
We should note right off the bat you have a bit of a connection to that building. It used to be your home years and years ago. What has it been like for you to see it in the state it is right now?
Gabriel Groisman, Mayor of Bal Harbour, Florida: It has been horrendous, like it has been for everybody.
I did. I grew up in that building in the '80s. It was my first home in South Florida. But, more than that, the community we live in, my municipality is just north of Surfside, but it is really just one community.
We all know many people in the building, either directly or indirectly, and it's really just been a really devastating couple of days for our entire community.
Tell me about the families. I know you have been in touch with them. We're on day five of the search-and-rescue operation. It is still search-and-rescue.
But, as we noted, hope is starting to fade. What are you hearing from them? What is the sense among the families right now?
The sense among the families is both despair, but also hope.
One thing that is consistent with all of the families is hope. Everybody is holding on to hope as much as they can. In a way, that's all we can do. It's all they can do. But, of course, there is feelings of desperation and sadness.
And the room where the families is in at the hotel is one that is filled with very a high level of emotion and tension. But they are holding onto hope, every single one of them.
We heard from the officials today, of course, they are still using all of the technology available to them. They have radar and sonar, the sniffer dogs we saw in the piece.
And they noted they're looking for these voids where they think there could still be survivors. Is there any sense of a timeline moving forward, how long search-and-rescue operations continue?
I'm not sure about the timeline. The search-and-rescue is going to continue until they find everybody.
And I can tell you, I have visited the site every day in the morning and in the afternoon since this has happened, sometimes three times a day. And you see the progress and the different steps that they have taken. In the last couple of days, they have taken to removing the large pieces of debris, which is not an easy task.
You have to remember they're working right under a 12-story building, the part of the building that's still standing. So it's a very dangerous task. And just yesterday, a worker fell some 25 feet. That's been reported.
But what hasn't been reported — and this is really a testament to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and the different teams that are there — is that that gentleman, that hero stood up after falling 25 feet and climbed back up to the top of the pile and continued working. And that's really an example and a testament to incredible fire rescue that we have in Miami-Dade County and the state and all the international help that we're getting.
Mr. Mayor, I know those search-and-rescue operations continue. The big question for everyone there, for everyone watching is, why and how? How did this happen?
Is there anything you have learned in the last five days that can shed light on that?
In the last five days, really, what we have had is speculation. It's important for all of us to know there's a lot of old buildings in South Florida, there's a lot of old buildings across the country.
Many buildings have reports of cracks, of things that need to be renovated, concrete renovation, et cetera. I can — pretty confident to say that nobody would think that any of those things would result in a building collapsing.
But now we're learning that likely that it could. So we're all in every — in my municipality and every municipality across the state of Florida, at least those on the beach, we're looking closely at the buildings that we have, the older buildings, to make sure that they — that we're doing everything we can to assure their safety.
But, right now, the mark is 40 years for recertification. But we're — in my city right after this, I have a meeting to discuss what we should be doing for the buildings that are maybe 10 years earlier than that, 30-year-old buildings, 35-year-old buildings? What can we do to assure that this will never happen again?
That is Mayor Gabriel Groisman of Bal Harbour, Florida, joining us tonight.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much. We are thinking of you and everyone in the community.
Thank you so much.
Watch the Full Episode
Amna Nawaz joined PBS NewsHour in April 2018 and serves as the program's chief correspondent and primary substitute anchor.
Support Provided By:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Additional Support Provided By: