Families want search-and-rescue efforts to continue during severe weather, Surfside mayor says

Mayor: Families frustrated with work stoppage during thunderstorms, lightning
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett speaks at a news conference on June 29, 2021.jpg
Posted at 2:10 PM, Jun 29, 2021

SURFSIDE, Fla. — With the painstaking and grueling search-and-rescue mission at a collapsed Surfside condominium building now in its sixth day, family members of the missing are growing angry and frustrated with something out of anyone's control: Mother Nature.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday morning, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said many families are asking why the rescue operations have to stop when there are thunderstorms and lightning.

"There was frustration. There was a little anger," Burkett said. "The speaker said, [the first responders] are already risking their lives anyway. They're working under a building that could fall down. Why do we have to stop for lightning?"


Surfside mayor talks search-and-rescue efforts

Burkett said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky would talk to emergency and county officials about the work stoppage during severe weather and get back to families with a response.

Calling it a "luck problem," Burkett said the exhaustive, around-the-clock search-and-rescue mission has been hampered for days by South Florida's typical daily storms, which often fire up during the afternoon hours.

No additional deaths were announced during Tuesday morning's news briefing, and 150 people remain missing following last Thursday's devastating collapse at the Champlain Towers South condominium building.

Burkett, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and other state and local officials met with family members on Tuesday, with some loved ones asking authorities how long people can survive underneath rubble of this magnitude.

"There didn't seem to be a good answer to that," Burkett said.

However, the mayor shared an article from The Guardian which reported that one woman had survived for 17 days and was rescued from the ruins of a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh.

"Nobody is giving up hope here. Nobody is stopping. The work goes on full-force. We're dedicated to get everyone out of that pile of rubble and reunite them with their families," Burkett said.

Cominsky said first responders have moved approximately three million pounds of concrete and are using sonar and video equipment to search for any signs of life in the tight, enclosed spaces of the rubble.

"This is a very tedious effort," Cominsky said. "It's methodical, very difficult process. As we're removing debris, we're just finding more debris that's just, concrete pulverized. It's extremely difficult."

DeSantis assured family members on Tuesday that first responders are "breaking their back" to find anybody they can.

"We're gonna be there for the long haul on this. We're just not gonna look back, and we're gonna be there with any support that we can provide." DeSantis said.


Gov. Ron DeSantis talks rescue efforts

A "Support Surfside" fund has currently raised $1.6 million for those impacted by the devastating building collapse. If you want to make a donation, click here.

A family information and reunification center continues to operate at the Surfside Recreation Center, located at 9301 Collins Avenue, for people who are unable to locate their relatives who live in the building.

You can open a Missing Person Report by clicking here or calling 833-930-3701.

If you live at the Champlain Towers property or you know a person who lives there who has been found safe, click here.