SURFSIDE, United States, June 26, 2021 (AFP) — From his balcony, looking directly at the rubble, Maurice Wachsman complains about the slow pace of the search operation at a collapsed building at Surfside, near Miami.
“It’s not exactly a rescue operation,” he says.
A sense of outrage is shared by other locals, who question whether neglect played any role in the Surfside tragedy.
Local officials say they mobilized hundreds of firefighters and rescuers to find survivors among the rubble of the Champlain Towers, the 12-story building where the ocean front collapsed early on Thursday.
So far four people have died and 159 are missing.
Teams work among piles of concrete and iron, while firefighters drill through walls in hopes of finding survivors.
But with the passage of time, the impatience and anger of the families of the missing people is increasing.
“It’s here, where we’re told there are hundreds of workers trying to get people out and save them, it’s not a rescue operation at all, it’s nothing,” Wachsman said.
Her best friend, Chaim Rosenberg, is missing, as are her son and daughter-in-law.
Wachsman left New York just hours after the tragedy – with Rosenberg’s nephew Mike Salberg – and rented an apartment in the building next to the Champlain Towers, with direct view of the operations.
“My uncle’s apartment is right where that purple pillar screen door is,” said Salberg, pointing to the second floor of the building.
– “Someone has to pay” – “None of the rescuers tried to remove the debris, little by little, even with their own hands, without machines to eventually remove the people”, they Say, there is hope that the survivors are trapped in the air bubble.
Officials said they understand the frustration of the families.
“We release information about campaign details twice a day,” Miami Dade County Mayor Daniela Levin Cava said Friday night.
“There is still hope,” he said, adding that victims of such a catastrophe were found alive “a week later” from accidents.
Other survivors ask for an explanation about a possible structural defect in the building. A 2020 study found that the asset suffered a “very subtle” sink in the 1990s.
Janet Aguero, 46, was on the 11th floor of the building, on the side of the road, with her husband and two children on the morning of the collapse. She looked like an “earthquake” and went downstairs to escape with her family.
“If it could have been avoided, I am furious,” he told AFP.
He said he heard crackling noises and “some strange noises” in the days before the collapse, while work on the building was underway.
“Was something in the building trying to give us an indication of what was about to happen?” he asks.
“I was lucky to be alive, but my family must be going through what other people are going through right now, and it’s heartbreaking to see them,” he said.
“I want answers. Families deserve it and someone should be held responsible if there is negligence. Somebody has to pay.”
cyj / alc / lda / yow / fp