How long can someone survive in rubble? What to know after condo collapse near Miami

At least one person has died following a devastating partial collapse of a condo Thursday morning in Surfside, Florida, and first responders anticipate more fatalities.

A heap of rubble remains from the collapse at Champlain Towers South Condo near Miami. But because workers have so far been unable to determine the structure’s stability, they have not begun removing the rubble of the 12-story condo to look for any potential survivors of the 1:30 a.m. collapse, the Miami Herald reported.

As of Thursday afternoon, 99 people are feared to be missing, the Herald reported. Some people have survived for days — and even weeks — in previous disasters.

Depending on the circumstances and severity of the collapse, if a person is well-nourished and hydrated, they could survive such a disaster for around a week, The Huffington Post reported following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Some people have survived even longer.

A Haitian man survived 14 days in the rubble following that 7.0-magnitude earthquake, CNN reported. In the same earthquake, a man survived for 27 days and stayed alive by drinking sewage water, The Telegraph reported.

Two years later, a woman was pulled from rubble 17 days after a factory building collapsed in Bangladesh. She was found as rescuers heard her crying, “Please save me,” BBC reported.

The woman survived by drinking rainwater, according to The Guardian.

The most likely ways people survive being trapped under rubble include having some form of oxygen supply, being uninjured and having access to water, according to the BBC.

People can survive weeks without food, but usually only a few days without water, Dr. Richard Moon, a Duke University expert on survival, said after the Beirut port explosion in 2020.

“As dehydration increases, so does thirst, and tiredness. Eventually, when the kidneys have stopped producing urine, the person may become confused and even lapse into a coma as the kidneys start to fail,” according to News24.

But rescuing someone may not be as simple as it seems.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said in 2017 following an earthquake in Mexico that lifting rubble off a person could cause further injury.

“When someone is trapped and they are pinned down, rescuing them is not as simple as pulling rubble off of them,” Gupta said. “You can find somebody, and they could be alive, and then they could die during the actual rescue if it’s not done correctly.”

Experts say most rescues occur within 24 hours of the rescue and the chances of survival decrease each day, News18 of India reported.

Tips on how to survive, escape a collapsing building in wake of Florida condo disaster

Having a family emergency survival kit ready is one way people can prepare for a building collapse, Survivorpedia advises. The kit should include enough food, water and medicine for 72 hours, and flashlights, radios, whistles and emergency blankets are also suggested.

If you are trapped in rubble, experts say it’s best to stay low to the ground and create a pocket of breathable air with your hands and arms in front of your face, McClatchy News reported. You can try to signal rescuers with a flashlight or phone light, StoragePrepper suggests.

Staying calm to conserve energy is also important, StoragePrepper says, as you could be trapped for hours or days.

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