Families of residents of a collapsed building near Miami spent Thursday staring into space or sobbing, grievingly awaiting news of their loved ones, as residents searched for a solution to resettlement after the disaster that left at least one dead and 99 missing.
I’ve lost everything,” said Eric de Moura, 40, in front of the Community Center in Surfside, a small Miami-Dade County community where he will be trying to find housing for the days ahead.
This Brazilian lived for three years on the tenth floor of the Champlain Towers complex, part of which collapsed in the middle of the night for an as yet unspecified reason.
He considers himself a “miracle worker” because he decided last night to sleep with his girlfriend instead of going home.
“I am homeless, I lost my papers, my clothes, my green card, my money,” he explains, torn between the sadness and the joy of life: “I come back to see the building, it’s a shock. I have a lot of grief but I’m glad I’m alive.”
On the other hand, Eric de Moura is worried about the fate of his neighbors.
“It all fell apart. I think the people on my land are dead,” he cried.
These residents enjoy the best view overlooking the beach and ocean. It was this part that collapsed like a house of cards in the night.
Search teams – firefighters, police and dog units – spent the day trying to find survivors under the rubble, while a crane cleared the rubble and a helicopter hovered overhead.
The rest of the 12-storey building was untouched, and some iron balconies were uprooted, but all residents were evacuated as a safety measure and the neighborhood was cordoned off in several streets.
Residents found themselves several blocks away, and the community center was turned into a relief and shelter dungeon.
There they are waiting to move, in the family, with relatives or in hotels that provide rooms. Others are waiting to find out the fate of their relatives living in the building.
Volunteers have brought water, coffee, packed lunches, clothes and blankets, and teams from the American Red Cross and emergency services are there to calm them down. People come and go, some stay seated, motionless and stare into space, and some hold back crying hard.
More than 1,000 people passed through the center, confirms Ron Ben Hayon, a 22-year-old volunteer. This North Miami resident has returned to his childhood neighborhood to help out.
In this city where there is a large Jewish community, “we help everyone, and we are no exception,” he says.
“It’s a huge shock” to the community and the city, says the young man who returned from Israel where he did his military service.
Earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he had spoken to the leader of the Jewish community in Miami, saying that the Jewish state was “doing everything to help the forces on the ground, the wounded and the families.”