Man Says He Has 'No Hope' After Collapse of Miami Condo Where His Mother and Grandmother Lived
Families are anxiously awaiting news about their missing loved ones after a multistory condo partially collapsed in Florida — but for some, their hope is running thin.
In the wake of Thursday's morning tragedy at Champlain Towers — in which the 12-story, 136-unit apartment complex in Surfside partially collapsed around 1:30 a.m. — close to 70 family members rushed to a reunification site set up by the American Red Cross, according to USA Today.
While waiting for an update from police, Miami resident Pablo Rodriguez tearfully told the outlet he's not confident that his 64-year-old mother and 88-year-old grandmother survived.
"I came to the center, but I have no hope," Rodriguez, 40, explained to USA Today of his mother and grandmother, who both lived in the wing that collapsed.
According to Rodriguez, his last conversation with his mom was on Wednesday, when they spoke about having his grandmother and great-grandmother spend the weekend with his 6-year-old son.
He also had plans to celebrate his grandmother's 89th birthday next month by taking her to a surprise brunch at a restaurant, Rodriguez told USA Today.
Though Rodriguez felt the outcome for his family was grim, other loved ones were still holding out hope.
Nicolas Fernandez, who was also waiting at the reunification center, told USA Today he's been attempting to contact his close family friends who also lived in the collapsed part of the building.
"Since it happened, I've been calling them nonstop, just trying to ring their cellphones as much as we can to help the rescue to see if they can hear the cellphones," Fernandez explained to the outlet.
Silvana Juárez and Wendy Jean Louis said they, too, had loved ones in the building, according to USA Today.
Juárez told the outlet that three of her good friends and a young child are still missing, while Louis said she was a caregiver of a family who lives in the building.
"I can see that's where the unit was; that's where their apartment was," Louis told the outlet as she stared at the rubble. "I spend more than 10 hours here, they are my family."
Those missing individuals are part of the 99 people who are still unaccounted for, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez confirmed.
"We have people who ran down stairwells who exited themselves and others who don't have records of transport," Sally Heyman, the Miami-Dade County Commissioner, told the Washington Post. "They are unaccounted for because they have not been heard from or have not called family or friends to say they are okay."
Of the 136 units, about 55 collapsed and search and rescue teams were able to pull out 35 occupants trapped in the building, Ray Jadallah, assistant fire chief of operations for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said at a press conference.
An additional 10 people were assessed and treated, and two of those people were hospitalized, Jadallah said. CNN reported that one of those two people later died of their injuries.
Later on Thursday, Ramirez confirmed that 53 people have been accounted for.
Footage captured from the scene showed heroic rescues of people trapped inside, and Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, told the Miami Herald that teams were working on bringing a child to safety.
The child was discovered by a rescue dog in the building's garage — but searchers believe the child's mother may have been killed in the rubble, according to Rollason.
"It's bad," Rollason told the outlet. "We got some people out. They had to cut away railings… Everyone who is alive is out the building."
Rollason added that earlier, crews were able to save a mother and her child, though the mother's leg had to be amputated to get her out of the rubble.
Barry Cohen, the former vice mayor of Surfside, Florida, and his wife, Ofi, also survived the collapse, telling the Herald he was sleeping in his third-floor condo when he awoke to what he called "a bang that just kept on going."
After attempting to escape on their own, Cohen said he, his wife and two neighbors were rescued from their balcony by fire rescue teams who used a cherry picker bucket, the Herald reported.
At this time, the cause of the collapse remains unknown. The Miami-Dade Police Department is leading an investigation, and officials said search and rescue efforts are ongoing.
A hotline has been set up by authorities to report missing family members at (305) 614-1819.