SURFSIDE, Fla. – Rescuers kept up a desperate search for survivors on Thursday night after the partial collapse of a beachfront condo just outside Miami that killed at least one person and trapped others.
Family members that spoke with News4Jax said they’re trying to remain optimistic that their relatives will be located alive and well. They have been attempting to reach their loved ones who were in the building at the time of the collapse.
Officials did not know how many were in the tower when it fell.
Judy Spiegel was home alone on the sixth floor of the Chaplain Towers when a wing of the 12-story building came down around 1:30 a.m.
Her daughter, Rachel, said she has been not been able to get in contact with her mother.
“It’s devastating. It’s awful, but I have a lot of hope, and I’m just praying that she is alive and knowing that we’re going to be looking for her,” Rachel Spiegel said.
Bonnie Epstein and her husband, David, were on the ninth floor when the building collapsed. Their son, Jonathan, who lives in New York City, said he hasn’t been able to contact his parents.
“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.”
Steve Rosenthal was asleep on the other side of the building in a corner unit.
“The bedroom began to shake,” he said. “I’m saying, ‘I’m in a dream about an earthquake in California. This isn’t real.’”
Rosenthal said he realized it was no dream when dust started coming down form the ceiling. He said he jumped out of bed and tried looking out the window to see what was happening.
He put on clothes and went into the hallway.
“The ceiling’s down. Cement and rocks. People yelling and screaming – help me. Help me. Get me out. Get me out,” Rosenthal said.
The 72-year-old said he packed what he could and went out to the balcony where he was rescued by firefighters using a ladder truck.
Once he was on the ground and able to see the damage, he said that while looking at the rubble hours later, he came to the realization that he likely lost several friends who lived on the side of the building that collapsed.
Friends that, he said, he has not been able to contact.
“I lost at least 10 people that they’re showing pictures on the TV that are missing,” Rosenthal said. “They are all on that one side that went down.”
Two hotlines have been setup for families to get information about the collapse. There’s a family reunification hotline: 305-614-1819. There’s also an emergency information number: 305-993-1071.