MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Leo Soto was in Surfside on Saturday waiting for updates about his friends who were in Champlain Towers South when a portion of the ocean side building collapsed on Thursday in Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside.
Soto said he met Nicole “Nicky” Langesfeld in high school and they had remained friends. He was worried about her and her partner, Luis Sadovnic, who was born in Venezuela. The two lived in an apartment on the 8th floor.
“The hope is that there are going to be miracles,” Soto said.
The search-and-rescue operation continued as experts believe there is still a chance of finding survivors trapped in air pockets within the pancaked concrete.
Dozens attended a Saturday prayer vigil that was held from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Saint Joseph Catholic Church, at 8670 Byron Ave., in Miami Beach.
The Archdiocese of Miami released a statement saying Pope Francis offered his prayers “that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died [and] comfort to those who mourn their loss.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the official death toll had risen to five on Saturday afternoon, and there were still 156 people unaccounted for. There will come a point when experts will decide to transition to a search-and-recovery operation.
Search-and-rescue teams found a body and human remains in the rubble on Saturday. They had already recovered the bodies of three victims. And after rescuing a woman out of the debris, she died on the way to the hospital on Thursday.
The Medical Examiner’s Office had yet to identify the human remains. Some of the relatives have provided authorities with DNA samples to help speed up the identification process. Officials have yet to identify any of the victims.
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.
Coverage on Saturday
Coverage on Friday
Coverage on Thursday