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Israeli Col. Golan Vach no longer believes there are Surfside building collapse survivors under rubble

Official death toll remains at 24

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.

Israel search-and-rescue personnel wearing yellow helmets help colleagues at the Champlain Towers South condo building, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.

Israeli Col. Golan Vach said Sunday three-dimensional and two-dimensional mapping was essential at the site of the building collapse in Surfside. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

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.

A dog aiding in the search walks past a team of Israeli search and rescue personnel, left, working atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.

Complete coverage: Surfside Building Collapse

An American flag flies from a crane next to the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of victims remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Demolition teams are preparing to bring down the unstable remainder of the structure ahead of a tropical storm. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on July 4

Workers are on the site of the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of victims remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Demolition teams are preparing to bring down the unstable remainder of the structure ahead of a tropical storm. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on July 3

In this satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies heavy-lift cranes are used to aid in the search and recovery operation at the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building on Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (Maxar Technologies via AP) (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies)

Coverage on July 2

Workers load a stretcher with remains extricated from the rubble into a Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner van, near the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of people remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Coverage on July 1

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit a memorial wall covered in flowers and photos of the missing Thursday, July 1, 2021, after a condo tower collapsed in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 30

A dog working with search and rescue personnel barks to alert them after sniffing a spot atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of people remain missing almost a week after it partially collapsed, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Coverage on June 29

Search and rescue workers comb the rubble of an oceanfront condo building that collapsed, with many dead and unaccounted for, in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 28

FILE - In this June 28, 2021, file photo, workers search the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Fla. Search and rescue teams from Miami-Dade have been described as among the best and most experienced in the world. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 27

This aerial image shows an oceanfront condo building that partially collapsed three days earlier, resulting in fatalities and many people still unaccounted for, in Surfside, Fla., Sunday, June 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 26

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.)

Coverage on June 25

FILE - In this June 25, 2021, file photo, rescue personnel work at the remains of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla. Harry Rosenberg, a New York City man, bought a beachfront home there to start a new chapter of his life after his wife and parents died. Now he is missing in the collapse of the building outside Miami. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Coverage on June 24

This photo taken from video provided by ReliableNewsMedia, firefighters rescue a survivor from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., early Thursday, June 24, 2021. (ReliableNewsMedia via AP)

About the Authors:

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."

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.