SURFSIDE, Fla. – Relatives of Champlain Towers South residents continued to arrive early Friday morning to Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside. Some of them opted to go to hotels to get some rest. Others remained at the community center overnight to wait for updates, even though officials aren’t expected to release more details until later in the morning.
Soriya Cohen couldn’t get much sleep on Thursday night. Her husband, Dr. Brad Cohen, and her brother-in-law Dr. Gary Cohen haven’t answered their phones since the northeastern corner of the L-shaped building collapsed shortly before 2 a.m. on Thursday. They were in an 11th-floor apartment.
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“Last I heard, there were 99 people missing. Why is nobody doing anything? It’s nice to have cake and cookies, but like my husband could be dying in there,” Cohen said outside of the town’s community center.
Search-and-rescue teams were hard at work. Groups of 10 to 12 entered the pancaked concrete through the parking lot. Structural engineers checked on the stability of what was left of the building. The crews tunneled through the rubble. They used cameras and sonar equipment to search for survivors. The heavy equipment arrived late Thursday night.
Magally Ramsey said she hasn’t been able to reach her mother, Magally Delgado, a Champlain Towers South resident. She said she is hoping for a miracle, but if she learns her mother is dead, she will hope that she didn’t feel any pain.
“I believe in my mom’s grit, and force, and strength and resilience,” Ramsey said.
Rachel Spiegel said her parents are Champlain Towers South residents. Her 65-year-old mother, Judy Spiegel, was likely sleeping in apartment 603. She said she had last talked to her about 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Her father was on a business trip.
“My mom is just the best person in the world,” Rachel Spiegel said, adding, “I know the teams here are doing everything in their power. We are just praying that they find her.”
The Shul Jewish Community Center reported members were among the people who were unaccounted for. The list includes Nancy Kress Levin, Jay Kleinman, Frankie Kleinman, Arie Leib, Yisroel Tzvi Yosef, and Tzvi Doniel.
“I have a friend that just traveled all the way from Boca. He is missing three family members,” said Mark Weinschneiter as he volunteered at The Shul.
There are relatives who are still trying to get flights from other countries. There were residents from Russia, Israel, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Argentina.
Among the nine people from Argentina, were Fabián Nuñez, 55, a producer and accountant, his partner Andrés Galfrascoli, 45, a plastic surgeon, and their 6-year-old daughter Sofía.
Among the six people from Paraguay was Sophia López-Moreira, the sister of the country’s First Lady Silvana López-Moreira. There were 20 people from Israel, three people from Uruguay, and four people from Venezuela.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an emergency order to allow President Joe Biden’s administration to help. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz also visited the site.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said there were 102 survivors. Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett said the building was under scrutiny to comply with a safety review that the town requires every four decades. Champlain Towers South was built in 1981.