SURFSIDE, Fla. – Israeli Col. Golan Vach, an experienced search-and-rescue operations expert, said he no longer believes there are any building collapse survivors under the rubble Sunday afternoon in Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside.
Vach, who has been working at the Champlain Towers South site, said the circumstances during the last few days led him to believe the chances of finding survivors are close to zero. The reality is painful.
“We are going through this difficult time together. We talk every night ... Sometimes we cry. It’s natural, but we are tough guys. This is our job and we will do it as best as we can,” Vach said about his relationship with Florida Task Forces 1-2.
Vach said he and seven other Israeli experts will remain in Miami-Dade until Thursday to help reassess the situation after the upcoming demolition of the ruins. The Israeli technicians, he said, are going back home Monday.
“We were here 50 people but the whole country of Israel was behind us,” Vach said about the contribution to the rescue effort, which included everything from analysts to computer engineers.
Vach said two-dimensional and three-dimensional digital mapping was essential to recovering bodies out of the ruins of the Champlain Towers South at 8777 Collins Ave.
He said he made every effort to remain in communication with the families of the victims, and religion and nationalities were irrelevant to his team during their work in Surfside.
“Most of the people that I personally pulled out, extracted from the pile, were not Jewish,” Vach said.
The official death toll remained unchanged at 24 since the search was suspended Saturday. There are 121 people unaccounted for, police said.
“We are trying to be hopeful, but realistic at the same time,” Vach said about his conversations with the families of the victims.
A demolition team was at work Sunday at the site. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she ordered the demolition after recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management. The time and date of it have yet to be announced.
Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."