Search-and-rescue teams from all over the state of Florida are working around the clock to try to save anyone who is still trapped under the tons of rubble of the collapsed Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.
With hope fading after three days and no survivors found, some of the rescue teams have begun to dig tunnels through the rubble, hoping to find anyone from the 50-plus apartments that pancaked to the ground on Thursday morning.
It’s a heartbreaking task.
The search-and-rescue teams “are in pure rescue mode right now. When you have fire, that complicates things and their ability to do their job,” State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said Sunday, Fox 29 reported. “They’ve got a building that has some vulnerabilities, so when you add water to the building, you’re adding more weight and more challenges. All that hampers the rescue effort.”
Patronis choked up when talking about the emotional toll on the rescuers. “I’m proud of the work they’re doing,” he said. “Sunday’s kind of an appropriate day for prayer. We hope for all the prayers we can wish upon them, to bless their hands, to do the amazing things that they’re doing right now for all the families affected.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan R. Cominsky said the effort to find survivors includes robots, dogs, drones, sonar technology, cameras, and numerous teams who are taking turns to explore different sections.
Nearby at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside, there are families who have been waiting in anguish for updates for more than three days. Their relatives had trusted that Champlain Towers South was safe enough to sleep in on Wednesday night.
As the clock continues to tick, rescuers have begun to tunnel through the collapsed concrete, despite the risks.
Groups of 10 to 12 rescuers continued to tunnel through the debris by making cuts and breaches. They risked facing spontaneous fires and summer storms. Paramedic Maggie Castro, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said there were household chemicals and other combustible items.
Castro also said engineers were at the site reporting on the structural stability of what was left of the building. Fire Rescue personnel used heavy machinery to slowly clear away superficial metal and other unstable debris from above that could potentially fall and hurt rescuers.
The death toll stands at 9, with 154 still unaccounted for.
“It’s raw for the families and the families have experienced a very unnatural form of terror,” Patronis said. “You’re not supposed to see a loved one just disappear and you’re asking and putting your faith in people you’ve never met before to bring your loved one to a safe place. That’s a lot of trust. That’s a lot of emotion.”
“I don’t know what God’s plans are,” Patronis said. “Sometimes I wish he’d let me know.”