Woman begging for help in debris died before she could be rescued

·3-min read

A woman has died waiting for help after becoming trapped in the rubble of the fallen apartment building in Miami, Florida.

Champlain Towers collapsed last week killing at least 18 people with 140 still missing. Survivors remain homeless.

In the early hours of last Thursday morning, crews tried to rescue a woman trapped beneath debris near the garage.

A member of the rescue crew, who wished to remain anonymous, told Local 10 rescuers continued to speak with her as they tried to save her.

Crews in the collapsed Champlain Towers building in Florida.
Crews try to get to a trapped woman inside the fallen apartment building. Source: Local 10

She was discovered after crews heard thumping noises on the wall and someone calling out for help.

“The first thing I remember is thumping on the wall and then I remember her just talking, ‘I’m here, get me out. Get me out,’” he told the station.

“We were continuously talking to her. ... ‘Honey, we got you. We’re going to get to you’.”

An email obtained by the station, which is a log of the rescue operation, suggests she died as crews couldn’t get through the debris.

Shots from the scene show crews had to get through fallen pipes, a dumpster and concrete to reach her.

A general view as search and rescue teams look for possible survivors and remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida.
The remains of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida. Source: Getty Images

Building to be destroyed

Florida officials are working on plans to tear down what’s left of a partially collapsed building after concerns about the structure’s instability prompted a 15-hour halt to the search for survivors.

After rescue efforts resumed Thursday evening, officials said they had started planning for the likely demolition of the remaining structure even as searchers continue to comb the rubble pile beneath it.

Scott Nacheman, a FEMA structures specialist, said engineers are looking at different methods for the demolition and how to proceed “to make the site safe for ongoing rescue operations.”

Mr Nacheman said that if the building comes down, there will initially be a slowdown in the rescue operation. But he said the demolition of the structure would create a safer working environment that could allow more personnel on the site and accelerate the pace of the work.

A general view as search and rescue teams look for possible survivors and remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida.
The remains of the building are set to be demolished. Source: Getty Images

He said it would likely be weeks before officials schedule the demolition.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the decision about the demolition needs to be made “extremely carefully and methodically,” considering the potential impact on the pile of debris and the effect on the search.

The rescue work was halted early Thursday after crews noticed widening cracks and up to a foot of movement in a large column.

Work resumed shortly before 5pm after the site was evaluated by structural engineers, Ms Cava said, describing firefighters as “really, really excited out there.”

“We will continue to search feverishly, as we have done all along in the parts of the collapse that we currently have access to,” she said.

The work stoppage had threatened to dim hopes for finding anyone alive in the debris a week after the tower came down.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the halt was worrisome since “minutes and hours matter, lives are at stake.”

with The Associated Press

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