AFP, Released Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at 8:32 p.m.
“Like an Earthquake”: On Thursday, June 24 at 1:20 am, Janet Aguero is awake with a deafening din. Fifty-five apartments have now collapsed at the Champlain Towers apartment complex on the Surface near Miami, one of the worst urban disasters in U.S. history.
“It was like an earthquake. We, my husband and I were asleep. We woke up from a building that was trembling so violently,” 46-year-old Janet Aguero told AFP. Through the window, she sees only a cloud of dust.
With her husband, Albert and her two children, Janet spends a weekend vacation at her mother-in-law’s apartment on the street side of the 11th floor of the building.
North of Miami Beach, Surface, with 6,000 inhabitants, is known for its white sand beaches, making it a popular destination for tourists and retirees alike. The city is also home to a large Jewish community.
Built on the beach, the brown concrete of the Sampline Towers, 12 stories high and built in 1981, has a glass fa முகade among modern residential complexes.
The home has 136 apartments that are either occupied or rented out by the owners. The sea view units just collapsed for reasons not yet determined.
In ten minutes, firefighters are on site. From his balcony, Albert Aguero asks them what to do. “If you can go, go,” they reply.
As we exit the apartment, son Justin Willis says, “Half of the landing on our left is gone and we can see the sea.” The stairs are still “but half destroyed, some steps sometimes missing”.
The lineage seems endless. “You don’t have to think about what you see outside, I just focus on my legs,” the 22-year-old said.
In “survival mode”, the family reaches the size of the garage, advances toward a “large debris”, finds a breach, and runs toward the beach where they feel safe. This is where Janet Aguero reaches the “crack” and bursts into tears. “There were so many emotions,” he said.
– “Hope” –
Residents taking refuge on their balconies were evacuated by ladders. Search operations between the ruins begin by hand on the surface and on the foundations.
At night, a young man emerged alive from the rubble. One death and 51 missing in the first report.
From the early hours of the day, the city’s community center, on a few more streets, was transformed into a reception center for the families of the missing. Outlaws, like the Aguero family, come there to find temporary shelter.
Volunteers pour during the day, distributing drinks, food, blankets and basic necessities, while families report relatives who need to be in their apartment.
Bettina Obias donated a DNA sample without the message of her aunt and uncle. Authorities told the AFP he needed to “verify which body belonged to which family”.
Operations were disrupted due to thunderstorms and a fire in the basement, which will be brought under control on Saturday.
On Friday, four people were killed and 159 were missing. Miami-Tate County Mayor Daniel Levine Kawa says there is “more hope” in finding survivors despite the extent of the damage.
Hundreds of firefighters, with the help of dog crews, used machine tools at the site to search the wreckage completely, but this hope faded as the days went by.
As of Tuesday morning, the death toll was 11 and more than 150 were missing.
– “In-depth investigation” –
As of Saturday, the first questions arise about the integrity of the building, where work is underway to bring it up to standard. The 2020 study emphasizes that the building experienced a “very subtle” collapse in the 1990s. According to officials, this work is not the cause of the disaster, and the author of this study did not tell CNN that the decline was “predictable”.
The reliability of the building was again questioned by the 2018 report, which later noted “major structural damage” and “cracks” in the concrete columns in the basement. According to a letter dated April 9, while addressing the Co-Owners’ Assembly, its president was alarmed by the building’s “dilapidated” condition.
According to AFP, Janet Aguero recalls that “the garage always seemed to be in bad condition, there were cracks, and it was flooded all the time.”
Officials have promised a “thorough and thorough investigation”, while the concerns relate to the sister campus of Sampline Towers North, which was built by the same developer.
President Joe Biden will be at Surface on Thursday, with families in agony.