A woman confronted Florida officials in charge of the Champlain Towers search-and-rescue operation and several other people with loved ones still missing voiced dissatisfaction with the pace of the work during a briefing on the disaster on Saturday.
The briefing, which appeared to be limited to family members, was captured in a 30-minute video posted to Instagram by Abigail Pereira, a Uruguayan actor.
Half of the 12-story condominium tower collapsed, most of it straight down, shortly before 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
Since then, a coalition of emergency workers led by the Miami-Dade fire department has been combing through the ruined building; at least 35 survivors were found in the early hours of the crisis. Only four deceased people have been found, and 159 people are still believed to be missing.
“Much too much time has gone by, and promises aren’t being kept. I’m not an engineer, I’m not a fire marshal ― I don’t know the way to do this,” said one woman who stood to address local officials, according to the video.
“It’s impossible” that no one has been found dead or alive in the past day, she said.
“Imagine if your children were in there!” she implored the officials.
A few minutes later, another woman voiced her anxieties, saying, “We’re running out of time!”
Four teams were working above ground and one was attempting to burrow up from underneath the building, according to an official in the video, but all of their efforts were being hampered by a fire burning somewhere in the depths of the ruined structure.
The official explained that rescuers were working in shifts around the clock to try and locate survivors, but the rescue operation cannot sustain any more large pieces of equipment due to other nearby buildings and the soft sand on one side of the structure.
Authorities briefed news outlets on Saturday morning after speaking to families, and emphasized the problems posed by the fire and smoke.
“The stench is very thick,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
The building had an international mix of residents, including South Americans and Israelis. Among the missing is a relative of Paraguayan first lady Silvana de Abdo Benítez.
Authorities say they have ample personnel on hand to do the work of tracking down possible survivors, but questions have already emerged over how the rescue operation is being handled.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was ready to deploy emergency workers from the earliest stages of the condo collapse, according to Washington Post reporter Hannah Dreier, who obtained a briefing document from the agency.
DeSantis was criticized for waiting to request the federal agency’s help until much later on Thursday.
The governments of Mexico and Israel said they were sending teams of engineering and emergency rescue specialists to help American officials, and several family members in the video pressed authorities to use the outside help.
After an official pushed back, saying that the people they have on the ground were just as qualified as anyone else, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in the Instagram video that the foreign teams were being deployed.
On Saturday, it also emerged that an engineer had warned in 2018 that the Champlain Towers building had “major structural damage” and required extensive repairs.