Surfside collapse: Israeli rescue expert believes there are no survivors with 121 still missing
SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: Demolition crews have set off explosives to bring down the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside. The remaining portion of the condo building was demolished just after 10.30 pm ET on Sunday, July 4. The death toll from the collapse stood at 24 on July 4, with 121 still missing.
Reportedly, while the demolition was considered key to resuming the search for victims of the June 24 collapse, Colonel Golan Vach, an Israeli search-and-rescue operations expert who has been working at the site, said he was doubtful that survivors would be found.
Vach said he no longer believes there are any building collapse survivors under the rubble on July 4 afternoon. He said the circumstances during the last few days led him to believe that the chances of finding survivors are close to zero.
“We are going through this difficult time together. We talk every night... Sometimes we cry. It’s natural, but we are tough guys. This is our job and we will do it as best as we can,” Vach said, adding that he and seven other Israeli experts will remain in Miami-Dade until Thursday, July 8, to help reassess the situation post the demolition. The Israeli technicians, he said, are going back home Monday, July 5.
“We were here 50 people but the whole country of Israel was behind us,” Vach said. He said that two-dimensional and three-dimensional digital mapping was essential to recovering bodies out of the rubble. He also said that he made every effort to remain in communication with the families of the victims — religion and nationalities were irrelevant to his team. “Most of the people that I personally pulled out, extracted from the pile, were not Jewish,” Vach said. “We are trying to be hopeful, but realistic at the same time.”
“We are standing by. We are ready to go in, no matter the time of night,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference on July 4 night about the rescue efforts following the demolition. She called the method of demolition "energetic felling", describing it as a process that "uses small, strategically placed explosives and relies on gravity to bring the building down in place."
As per reports, officials have been racing against Tropical Storm Elsa, which is moving toward South Florida with heavy rain and sustained winds of 60 mph. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said on July 4 that his team was tasked with altering their operational approach around the collapsed structure as Tropical Storm Elsa moved closer. "It appears as though the approaching storm may have been a blessing in disguise for us in that it initiated the demolition discussion," he said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 15 counties on July 3 including Miami-Dade County because of Tropical Storm Elsa. "We're preparing for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall, and flash flooding," DeSantis said, adding the state has "begun executing contingency plans for the Tropical Storm Elsa and Surfside co-response".