A woman called for help under the rubble of Surfside condo collapse, fire chief says

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Rescue crews heard a woman calling for help underneath the rubble of the collapsed condo tower in Surfside during their “initial search and rescue efforts” in the area last week, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said Thursday.

A search-and-rescue dog detected someone trapped under a mountain of concrete just hours after the Champlain Towers South condo partially collapsed on June 24, as the Miami Herald has reported. Rescuers first believed the trapped person was a child but later identified her as an adult woman.

Cominsky on Thursday said rescuers searched for “several hours” but couldn’t find where the voice was coming from.

Eventually, they stopped hearing her.

A rescue worker who spoke with Local 10 this week said the woman was trapped in the lower level of the building, now inside the garage, and was “pleading to be taken out of there.” A supervisor email obtained by the station stated that crews were speaking with her 10 to 11 hours after the collapse but a fire forced the crew to move back “as we know she passed.”

“Unfortunately we didn’t have success,” Cominsky said Thursday.

Fire-rescue crews had to battle a “deep” fire under the rubble for several days. They used heavy equipment to dig a large trench to help combat the fire, which Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava previously said was “hampering” search efforts.

She said crews worked nonstop under the rubble to stop it, using infrared technology, foam, water and other tactics to contain the fire and minimize the smoke, which had spread through the pile and was the “biggest barrier” for the search-and-rescue mission. The fire was extinguished earlier this week, but the search is now facing more complications.

Crews had to pause their search efforts early Thursday because of concerns that the remaining part of the 12-story tower could topple. So far, officials have confirmed 18 deaths. There are 145 people missing.

Cominsky said he doesn’t know when search-and-rescue operations will continue but that he’s meeting with structural engineers Thursday to develop a plan to resume work. He said his primary focus is to rescue victims and keep rescue crews safe.