ELEVEN people have so far been confirmed dead but 151 more are still missing after a building collapsed in Miami, Florida.
The apartment block, Champlain Tower South Condo, was in the area of Surfside, which has a tight-knit Jewish community. Many members are affected by the tragedy. At least 34 of the missing are Jewish, one local synagogue told journalists.
Rescuers continue to dig through the rubble since part of the building collapsed in the early hours of Thursday of last week. They are still hoping to find survivors, even though none had been found since Thursday. The rescue has been slowed by the high heat and humidity, and, at one point, a fire broke out in the rubble.
Synagogues in the neighbourhood have been collecting money and providing food for rescue workers and survivors. One synagogue raised more than $100,000 in just a few hours.
Members of a Jewish burial society, the Chevra Kadisha of South Florida, are standing by to help with burials as bodies are pulled from the rubble, in accordance with Jewish tradition.
Others missing, including an 11-year-old girl, her four-year-old sister, and parents, belonged to St Joseph’s, a Roman Catholic church close to the apartment block. Nine members of the congregation are missing as a result of the collapse, and prayers were said for the victims during mass on Sunday.
One of those attending mass, Radames Ocasio, had worked for the New York fire department for the 9/11 attack. He told the Miami Herald that the collapse had “brought back some really, really hard memories”.
Pope Francis sent a message to the Archbishop of Miami, the Most Revd Thomas Wenski, and offered “heartfelt prayer that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died, comfort to those who mourn their loss, and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy”.
The cause of the collapse is not clear, although an engineer’s report from 2018, revealed on Saturday, referred to “a major error” in the original design of the 12-storey sea-front Champlain Towers. It said that the fault prevented water draining away from the base of the building.
The Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Southeast Florida, the Rt Revd Peter Eaton, said that prayers were said in the diocese on Sunday. “We pray for the dead and the grieving, the injured, and those still unaccounted for, and their family and friends who are waiting anxiously for news of them. We also pray for those who are now homeless, and who have lost everything.”
He asked the diocese: “Please remember in your prayers, as well, those who are working around the clock to search for survivors, to recover the dead, and to account for the missing.”