As the agonizing wait continues for relatives of those missing in the collapse of a 12-story beachfront condo in Surfside, Fla., the mayor of the tight-knit community just north of Miami relayed on Monday what he described as a “personal” anecdote of one of those families.
Speaking at a press conference, Mayor Charles Burkett said he was touring the site of the collapsed building on Sunday night when he came across a young girl sitting in a chair by herself, looking at her phone.
Burkett said he recognized the girl, one of whose parents had been in the building.
“I knelt down and asked her, I said, ‘So what are you doing? Are you OK?’” the mayor recalled.
The girl, he said, was reading a Jewish prayer to herself, “sitting at the site, by where one of her parents presumably is."
“That really brought it home to me,” Burkett said. “She wasn’t crying. She was just lost. She didn’t know what to do, what to say, who to talk to.”
Burkett said he planned to find the girl on Monday to tell her “we’re all here for her, and we’re going to do the best we can to bring out that parent.”
He added: “It’s horrific. It’s disturbing. But that is just a tiny, tiny example of the impact this collapse has had on this community.”
At the same press conference, officials raised the confirmed death toll to 10, while 151 people remain unaccounted for as search and rescue operations continue for a fifth straight day.
“The search continues, and it will not stop,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
President Biden authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid in the rescue and recovery efforts, as well as provide help for displaced families.
DeSantis said some of those funds would be allocated for relocation services and mental health counseling.
It’s unclear what caused the structure, which was built in 1981, to collapse.
A researcher at Florida International University told USA Today that the building has been sinking into the wetlands at an alarming rate since the 1990s, according to a 2020 study conducted by the school.
New documents released over the weekend showed that an engineering firm warned in 2018 of “major structural damage” and the potential for “exponential damage.”
Sea level rise due to climate change is also being eyed as a contributing factor.
Burkett said the discussion over the cause “is for another day,” and that the focus now is on pulling “family and friends out of that rubble.”
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