NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Witnesses said it was like a bomb went off and then a massive section of a Florida condominium was just gone.
Officials say one person is dead and nearly 100 others are still missing in Thursday’s collapse, and even through darkness crews planned to continue searching for signs of life.
Video shows the moment the oceanfront condo in Surfside suddenly collapsed. The building comes down, and then a cloud of dust fills the sky. The floors of the building are now sitting on top of each other, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported.
Surfside is a small town just north of Miami Beach, a vacation destination. The community there is devastated, but holding out hope.
Crews are still hearing sounds coming from the rubble, indicating people are trapped but alive. The race is on as we wait to learn if this will be a rescue of the living or recovery of bodies, and some New Yorkers are part of the group praying for a miracle.
CONTINUING COVERAGE From CBS Miami: Surfside, Florida Condo Collapse
As darkness fell over the devastation, investigators took pictures in a pile of rubble so overwhelming, it seems impossible there could still be survivors. The wait to know for sure is excruciating for Rachel and Josh Spiegel.
“You know, we just want to be with our mom,” Rachel Spiegel said.
“She was the best, our best friend. I can’t live without her,” Josh Spiegel said.
Their mother, Judy Spiegel, who is originally from the Long Island town of Plainview, is among the missing.
“What we’re hoping for is they’ll find her quickly and that she’s still alive,” Rachel Spiegel said.
Their parents lived on the sixth floor of the now-crumbled condo complex. Their dad is safe. He had been traveling in California. Rachel Spiegel said she talked to her mom just a few hours before the catastrophic collapse.
“She texted me and said, ‘I remembered that Scarlett wanted this Disney dress,’ my daughter. ‘I just remembered it. I went online and they have it in a size 4 and I bought it.’ So my daughter has a dress coming in the mail from my mom, and I really want my mom to give it to her,” Rachel Spiegel said.
Layton spoke with her on FaceTime, right after she gave authorities a DNA sample, just in case.
“I just want to give my mom a hug and tell her I love her, and I know she knows that,” Rachel said.
It’s a situation about 100 other families could have never fathomed they’d be facing as they rushed to a reunification center, counting on a miracle as their calls go unanswered.
“We’ve been calling them non stop. No reply. We don’t have information right now,” said Nicolas Fernandez, who has friends in the collapsed building.
“They’re all missing,” family member Yuby Pettingill said.
Search dogs are scaling the rubble for remains, and video shows firefighters trying to locate victims from the building’s flooded basement parking garage.
But some family members said the search isn’t moving fast enough.
“We walked up to it and there is not one person searching the rubble. The rubble is about three stories high and no one is searching,” William Sanchez said.
“You can’t just go and pull the rubble up because that stuff weighs tons and if it slightly moves and there’s a pocket, you eliminate that pocket and you eliminate the person,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.
Still, hidden in all the layers of tragedy there are glimmers of hope.
Nicholas Balboa lives in the area and helped save a 10-year-old boy.
“I was able to see his hand sticking through the rubble, waving,” Balboa said. “He said that his mom was in there with him. His arm was pinned. It was sheer panic.”
Rescue teams were expected to keep working through Thursday night, digging by hand from the top of the rubble and trying to create tunnels under what’s left of the building to look for signs of life.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.