Surfside, Fla. (AP) – A year ago in the middle of the night, a 12-story oceanfront condo building in Surfside, Florida, came down with a thunderous roar, leaving a giant pile of rubble and claiming 98 lives – one of the deadliest collapses. US history.
The disaster at Champlain Towers South also turned into the largest emergency response that didn’t involve a hurricane in Florida history.
Its victims were being honored Friday at events on the ground where, for two weeks last June and July, rescue crews descended from Florida and as far away as Mexico and Israel to help local teams dig through the pile and search for victims.
Friday’s agenda includes a private overnight gathering for families to light a torch. First Lady Jill Biden is expected to speak at a public event organized by the town of Surfside.
Only two teenagers and a woman survived the fall and were pulled out of the rubble, while others escaped from the part of the building that remained standing.
Images of one survivor’s rescue are widely distributed, offering a glimmer of hope right after the collapse, but the long, grueling search is producing devastating results as families are tortured only to learn about their loved ones.
Those missing in the collapse include a 7-year-old daughter of a firefighter who assisted in the search, later found dead with her mother, aunt and grandparents; A woman whose cries for help were heard in the early hours but stopped abruptly; and two sisters, 4 and 11, pulled from the rubble, who were so tiny they were buried in the same casket. A 12-year-old girl sat down to pray across the rubble for her physician father, who was eventually found dead.
The victims included local residents as well as visitors who were Orthodox Jews, Latin Americans, Israelis, Europeans and snowbirds from the Northeast.
The cause of the collapse is currently under investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with a new phase entering the probe this month to cut and drill into concrete and steel. Champlain Towers South had a long history of maintenance problems, and shoddy construction techniques were used in the early 1980s. Other possible factors include sea level rise by climate change and damage by salt water intrusion.
Pablo Langesfeld, a 26-year-old lawyer who was married and moved to the building a few months before the collapse, said his closure won’t come until the investigation is completed.
“This is a nightmare that never ends,” Langesfeld told The Associated Press.
The site where the building is near is swept flat.
Although the investigation is expected to take years, a judge approved a compensation settlement topping $ 1 billion Thursday for the victims.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman praised dozens of lawyers, and a woman who lost her daughter called them heroes in black robes and business suits.
Hanzman said the compensation deal was extraordinary in its scope and speed.
“This settlement is the best we can do. This is a remarkable result, “he said.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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