Rescue crews spend 5th day atop shaky pile of collapsed concrete in Florida

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Rescuers searching for a fifth day for survivors of a Florida condo building collapse used bucket brigades and heavy machinery as they worked atop a precarious mound of debris.

Another body was pulled from the rubble Monday, bringing the death toll to 11; 150 people remain missing in Surfside as families watch the intense rescue efforts unfold.

Rescue workers digging for a fifth day into the remnants of the collapsed condo building stressed they could still find survivors in the rubble.

As family members hang on to hope, volunteers from around the world, including from New York, stepped in to do their part.

“To go through the grief with them and time period of not knowing what’s happening with their families at the same time,” said Raphael Poch, a first responder with United Hatzalah.

United Hatzalah is one of several Israeli rescue groups working with El Al airlines to dispatch psychotrauma and a crisis response unit to help relatives of victims, community members and other cope with the tragedy.

Poch said Israeli search and rescue teams are often dispatched abroad to aid in missions following natural disasters like earthquakes. He said this mission is to provide the emotional support to those suffering.

“There’s families that have been waiting five days to hear what happened to their loved ones and that’s very emotional and difficult for people,” said Poch. “We provide the tools to enable people to build a sense of resiliency and understand they’re not alone.”

The missing are from at least nine countries, including Latin American countries and multiple faith communities.

The tower once sat in the small suburb of Surfside, home to a large Orthodox Jewish Community.
In 1981, emissaries from the Chabad in Brooklyn established the main synagogue there, The Shul of Bal Harbour.

The Shul is about a mile from the collapsed building and it’s become a shoulder for the displaced to lean on.

“It’s really become a ray of light amidst this level of destruction and trauma people are experiencing there,” said Rabbi Motti Seligson, of Chabad.

In New York, Rabbi Seligson said the Chabad’s outreach in Florida is strong, from supplying medications and food to helping in recovery efforts.

The Shul in Surfside has also set up an emergency fund and synagogues around Metro New York have informed their congregants of the fund, while asking for prayers for those still missing.

FEMA efforts are also underway and President Biden supports an investigation to pinpoint the cause of the collapse.

“The goal of course is to get to the bottom of what happened and have it be an instructive guide and how to prevent it from happening in the future,” said Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary.

Despite an engineer’s warning of major structural problems, a town building official told board members their Florida high-rise condo was in “very good shape” almost three years before it collapsed, according to minutes of a town meeting released Monday. 

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