“This is not a rescue operation at all”: From his balcony, which has a direct view of the rubble, Maurice Wachsmann complains about the slow search operations on the building that collapsed in Surfside, near Miami.
His feeling of anger is shared by other residents who fear that negligence regarding the reliability of the building could have been decisive in the catastrophe.
Local authorities claim to have deployed hundreds of firefighters and rescuers to find survivors in the rubble of the Champlain Towers building, a 12-story building of which the part overlooking the sea collapsed in the early hours of Thursday.
So far four dead and 159 missing have been counted.
Crews rummage through the mass of concrete and scrap metal, both above and below ground, and firefighters drill into walls in hopes of finding survivors.
But as the hours pass, more impatience and anger are felt among those close to the disappeared.
“That there, where they have told us that there are hundreds of workers to evacuate people and try to rescue them, that is not a rescue operation at all, it is nothing,” says Wachsmann.
His best friend, Chaim Rosenberg, and some of his family members are missing.
He left New York with Mike Salberg, Rosenberg’s nephew, a few hours after the disaster and rented an apartment in the building next to the Champlain Towers, with a direct view of operations.
“My uncle’s apartment is right there, where you see that purple column near the screen door,” says Salberg as he points to what was the second floor of the building.
– “Someone must pay” –
“Not a single lifeguard has tried to lift the rubble, little by little, even by hand, without machines, to eventually evacuate people,” he says, estimating that there may be survivors blocked in air bubbles.
The authorities say they understand the frustration of the families.
“We give them information twice a day on the details of the operations,” said the mayor of the county of Miami Dade, Daniella Levine Cava.
“There is still hope,” he said, highlighting that victims of this type of catastrophe could have been found alive “a week after” the events occurred.
Other survivors claim explanations for a possible structural failure of the building. According to a 2020 study, the property experienced a “very subtle” subsidence in the 1990s.
Janette Aguero, 46, was with her husband and two children on the 11th floor of the building, on the side facing the street, early in the morning of the collapse. He was awakened by what he felt like “an earthquake” and went down the stairs with his family to escape.
“It makes me very angry if this is something that could have been avoided,” he told ..
He had arrived at the site last Friday and says he heard “strange creaks and noises” several times in the days before the collapse, while improvement works were being carried out on the building.
“Was the building trying to give us a sign of things to come?” He wonders.
“I was able to get out, but I want answers,” he says. “The families of the victims deserve it, and someone must be held accountable. Someone must pay ”.