Surfside building collapse: Pregnant woman, dad-of-three among 160 missing residents
Devastated loved ones are hoping for "a miracle" as nearly 160 people are still unaccounted for following the collapse of a 12-story apartment block in Miami that may have killed scores of residents. One of those missing is reportedly the first cousin of the former president of Chile and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Speaking to CNN, Pascale Bonnefoy said she is waiting to hear from her father Claudio Bonnefoy, who lived with his wife Maria in the part of the Surfside condo building that was reduced to rubble early on Thursday, June 24. According to the Daily Mail, the couple is among at least 31 Latin American citizens known to be missing, a number that could climb as the search and rescue operation continues.
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Sources told the newspaper that most people living in the building were tourists hailing from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. They had reportedly traveled to the United States to get Covid-19 vaccines as it was difficult to get inoculated in their home countries. Officials are finding it difficult to identify who could be trapped beneath the rubble as many are thought to have been renting the condos as Airbnbs.
Silvana López Moreira, the first lady of Paraguay, arrived in Florida on June 24 after learning that her sister Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill, and their three young children were missing for more than 24 hours after the disaster. The family was believed to have been celebrating Luis's birthday just hours before the tragedy after they had made the trip to the US to get their Covid-19 jabs.
Speaking to Fox 21, one distraught husband said he was speaking on the phone to his wife, who was staying in the building, when it collapsed without warning around 1.30 am on June 24. Michael Stratton from Denver was desperate to hear from his wife. Cassandra Stratton reportedly told him the "building was shaking" and the line went dead just moments later. "She described that the building was shaking and then… the phone went dead," he said.
Stratton told the outlet that he flew to Miami while awaiting news about his wife who had been staying in the building during the pandemic. Just hours before the disaster, Cassandra has posted a photo of herself on Instagram, posing on a chair in a building in Miami Beach. It's unclear if it was the same building that collapsed, namely the Champlain Towers South.
British and American citizen Bhavna Patel, 38, her husband Vishal Patel, 42, and their daughter Aishani, 1, have also been missing since the building's collapse. A relative reportedly told Sky News that the family had been expecting another baby. Meanwhile, devastated friend Vishal Abash described Bhavna as "an angel, a sweet kind loving woman... very loving, very unconditional love, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone since the day I met her."
Pablo Rodriguez said his mother was woken up in the night by creaking noises before the building gave way. Both his mother and grandmother were living in the section of 55 condos that has been reduced to rubble. At the time of writing, they were still unaccounted for. "We are praying for a miracle, but at the same time trying to be as realistic about it as possible," Rodriguez told CNN.
Jonathan Epstein, who lives in New York City, told WJXT that his parents Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor when the building crumbled. "I'm trying to be a little optimistic, but I just don't see it," he said. "It just doesn't seem real, you know? Why this building? It doesn't make sense. I don't know. I'm struggling to make sense of it."