The search for more than 150 people trapped under the rubble of a collapsed condominium in South Florida is being hampered by a fire.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a Saturday morning news conference that rescuers are continuing to face “incredible difficulties” finding survivors due to the fire.
Rescue teams have been working around the clock since Thursday when the 12-story Champlain Towers South in Surfside collapsed. At least four people are dead, and 159 others are still unaccounted for two days later. The rescue effort has been severely hampered by a rubble fire, which is producing large amounts of smoke. Fire crews have not been able to yet find the source of the fire.
“It’s a very deep fire,” Cava said. “It’s extremely difficult to locate the source of the fire. So, they’ve been working around the clock, these fire rescue teams, these brave men and women, under the rubble to fix this problem so they can get on, but it is hampering our search efforts.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett previously said firefighters were battling a fire believed to be burning inside the collapsed building’s underground parking garage.
“Cars were probably crushed and we have fluids leaking out and it ignited, having created this nasty fire,” Burkett said.
A 2018 structural field survey report on the building noted “abundant cracking and spalling of various degrees ... observed in the concrete columns, beams and walls” of the parking garage. The report also said “many of the previous garage concrete repairs” were “failing.”
It is not yet known what caused the building’s collapse.
Cava said rescue teams are digging trenches to help battle the fire and are using infrared technology to better locate its source.
“We’re using everything possible to address this fire,” she said. “We are using infrared technology. We’re using foam. We’re using water. All the tactics that we can to contain the fire and minimize the smoke spread.”