‘Deep fire’ slowing rescue effort at collapsed Florida condo

Author: Associated Press/ Zach Oliveri WINK News Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
In this aerial image search and rescue workers work the site of an oceanfront condo building that partially collapsed, in Surfside, Fla., Friday, June 25, 2021. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says rescue officials are continuing to search Friday and there’s still hope of finding survivors in the rubble more than 24 hours after the building collapsed. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

There are 156 people who are not accounted for and there are five deaths reported. Human remains were also found, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Fire and smoke coming from deep inside the concrete and metal remains of a collapsed 12-story condominium tower near Miami hampered rescue efforts Saturday as emergency workers raced to recover any survivors beneath the mountain of rubble.

Rescuers used infrared technology, water and foam to battle the blaze, whose source was unclear, and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the smoke has been the biggest challenge. In a news conference, she described the blaze as “very deep” and said rescuers faced “incredible difficulties” because of the flames.

A fire hose blasted one of the lower floors on the north side of the tower as white smoke or steam streamed out, and a bitter, sulfur-like smell hung in the air.

“The stench is very thick,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

The fire and smoke are making an already challenging situation even worse. While search and rescue remain first responders’ top priority, fighting fires coming from inside the debris is not helping.

“The smoke itself is the biggest barrier right now to proceeding in those areas,” said Levine Cava.

Alan Cominsky is Chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. “As we’re continuing to remove debris, the smoke has been picking up,” Cominsky said.

You see the smoke overtaking the street in videos.

“We see that the smoke has speed it spread laterally throughout the pile it’s very difficult to isolate the source of the fire. And therefore to stop it,” Levine Cava said.

The fire does pose series of challenges for fire crews. Miami-Dade’s Mayor says fires have been burning for some time, deep inside the damage, and are difficult to locate.

Firefighters dug a trench into the rubble creating areas and they hoped to find the source.

“Bringing in heavier equipment looking with infrared different components seeing how we can mitigate the situation as we continue our search and rescue efforts,” said Cominsky.

Chief Cominsky is concerned about the air quality for first responders.

“We still have ventilation fans set up in specific areas and we use them you know to the best that we can but there’s also a concern in regards to adding more air that you could increase whatever is smoldering whatever is deep-seated area that is still burning could intensify as well,” he said.

First responders believe there’s still a possibility there are survivors.

Mayor Levine Cava believes there are crevices in the damage so there’s still air getting through.

Cominsky told the media that crews haven’t heard any distinct sounds yet.

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A crane removed pieces of debris from the more than 30-foot pile, and scores of rescuers used big machines, small buckets, drones, microphones and their own hands to pick through the rubble.

Among those anxiously awaiting word of missing loved ones was Rachel Spiegel, whose mother, 66-year-old Judy Spiegel, lived on the sixth floor. Speaking alongside her siblings, she said Saturday that “we’re trying to hold it together.”

“I know my mom is a fighter. I know she loves us. I know she doesn’t want to give up. So, you know, it’s day three, so it’s hard,” Spiegel said.

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