After five days of searching for survivors without results, the mayor of the Florida town where a residential building collapsed says there’s still hope.
“Nobody is giving up hope here. Nobody is stopping,” Surfside mayor Charles Burkett told ABC News on Tuesday.
The Champlain Towers South apartment complex collapsed early on Thursday morning, leaving at least 11 dead and more than 150 missing. Some survivors were found in the first hours of the rescue effort that followed, but no one has been found alive since then.
Despite all this, Mr Burkett made it clear the search will continue.
“We are dedicated to getting everyone out of that pile of rubble,” the mayor said.
Since the building collapsed, Mr Burkett has repeatedly said that although the disaster must be investigated, his and other officials’ focus right now is solely on saving whoever can be saved.
“There was something obviously very, very wrong at this building, and we need to get to the bottom of it,” the mayor told ABC’s This Week on Monday. “But that’s, like I said, not today, not tomorrow, and not for a long time because our first priority – and our only priority – is to pull our residents out of that rubble and reunite them with their families.”
As time drags on, however, experts say the chances of finding survivors are diminishing. On Tuesday – the sixth day of the search – reporters asked Mr Burkett how long someone could survive under the rubble.
“There didn’t seem to be a good answer to that,” he replied.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is now assisting with the rescue effort as well.
“FEMA is on the ground,” the agency’s administrator, Deanne Criswell, told Congress on Tuesday. “We will continue to bring resources to support the ongoing response and recovery efforts.”
After visiting the disaster site in person, Ms Criswell noted the extraordinary trauma to Surfside.
“It’s difficult to put into words the devastation that this community is experiencing,” she said.
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