Search-and-rescue teams tunnel through pancaked concrete 3 days after building collapse

At least 5 dead as 156 remain unaccounted for

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Florida Task Force Four, a search-and-rescue team out of Orlando, arrived early Sunday morning at the site of a catastrophic building collapse in Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside. They were wearing helmets, carrying bags with their gear, and they were ready to get to work.

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.

The Paramount Miami Worldcenter in downtown Miami, lights up with flags from around the world and the message, "One World, One Prayer," in solidarity wih the victims of Champlain Towers South in Surfside. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.

Shortly before 2 a.m. on Thursday, a large section of the 12-story building collapsed. On Friday morning, when an official told them crews had found human remains, a group started sobbing. A frustrated mother told Gov. Ron DeSantis he wasn’t doing enough.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava reported on Friday evening that there were still 156 people who remained unaccounted for. The Miami-Dade Police Department released the identities of four of the five victims who officials confirmed were dead: Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, Antonio Lozano, 83, Gladys Lozano, 79, and Manuel “Manny” LaFont, 54.

The death toll will continue to rise. Search-and-rescue teams found a body and human remains in the rubble on Saturday, and the Medical Examiner’s Office had yet to identify them when the police made the announcement.

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.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue had assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and elite teams from Mexico and Israel. The Jewish community in Surfside took a big hit. There were Argentinians, Colombians, Paraguayans, Uruguayans, and a Chilean who remained unaccounted for.

Although Champlain Towers South was getting international attention, residents in other buildings in Surfside were traumatized by the tragedy.

Champlain Towers South is one of three buildings in the area by the same developer. Champlain Towers North and South were built in 1981. Champlain Towers East was built about a decade later. Still, some of the residents chose to evacuate both buildings. They too were waiting for updates from officials.

Family reunification center

The town is hosting those who are waiting for information about unaccounted relatives at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside, at 9449 Collins Ave. Levine Cava said there are two daily briefings for relatives.

For information or to report the status of a loved one who is unaccounted for, call 305-614-1819 or 305-993-1071.

Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami. The building partially collapsed on Thursday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Complete coverage

Rescue workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. The apartment building partially collapsed on Thursday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on Saturday

Coverage on Friday

Coverage on Thursday

About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.