SURFSIDE, Fla. — The painstaking, dangerous search for survivors days after a 12-story condominium building collapse just north of Miami Beach continues as families waiting for news increasingly fear the worst. Some prayed for a miracle. Others already began to speak about their loved ones in the past tense.
Many upset at the slow pace of recovery, Anguished family members were given a private tour of the area Sunday afternoon. As of Sunday, at least nine have been confirmed dead, and more than 150 people are still unaccounted for, authorities said. Relatives issued a statement identifying one of the deceased as 54-year-old Stacie Fang. Her son, Jonah Handler, was rescued from the rubble hours after the collapse.
The collapse has become an international tragedy as news reverberates globally of missing residents with roots worldwide, reflecting the Miami area’s international mix. Among them are dozens of Jews, South American immigrants, and the sister of Paraguay’s first lady.
Tearful families and sentimental residents adorned a makeshift memorial Saturday with flowers, candles, photos, trinkets, and notes for loved ones. Relatives of the missing embraced each other and prayed, and some reached out and touched the faces on the photos they had just pinned. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told USA TODAY the rescue efforts will continue “until we pull everybody we can out of that rubble.”
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Here’s what we know about those who are missing:
Jewish, Israeli community members
At least 35 Jewish people are missing, including some with Israeli citizenship, Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, Consul General of Israel in Miami, told USA TODAY. No families had filed any missing person reports with the consulate Thursday, but Israel offered rescue teams to help with recovery efforts, he said. A rescue team of Orthodox Jews, called Hatzalah, joined law enforcement officers at the scene in Surfside, which has a prominent Jewish and Israeli population.
The local Jewish community from a nearby synagogue brought lunch for families of the missing and injured. Dozens and dozens of pizza boxes sat on tables alongside large aluminum trays filled with falafel, cucumber, tomato salad, and red cabbage salad. “The outpouring of support is incredible. Never, never, never in my life or in the countries I have lived, have I experienced the generosity of South Florida Jewish Community,” Ronit Felszer, whose son, Ilan Naibryf, 21, was unaccounted for, wrote on Facebook Friday evening. “I think we have enough food for the entire month.”
The University of Chicago sent a message to students and faculty confirming Naibryf, a rising fourth-year physics and molecular engineering student is among the individuals missing. Naibryf, who was born in Argentina, is also president of the university’s Chabad Student Board, according to an Instagram post being shared among students. The post asked people to pray for Naibryf and his girlfriend, Deborah Berezdivin. “They are dear friends, gems whom we love dearly,” the post said.
A GoFundMe page for Naibryf said he loves to surf, play sports, enjoy nature with friends and create prosthetics. “He is the most loyal and caring friend, brother, son, always thinking about others and ways to make them feel better,” the page said. “He is so much to so many people.” “As a family, we are trying to prepare ourselves for whatever the outcome is,” it added.
The Shul Jewish Community Center posted a sign offering meals, phone chargers, blankets, and clothes. They asked people to reach out if they needed a place for Shabbat dinner Friday evening. “Today will be a difficult Shabbat for those waiting for news,” Felszer wrote.
Argentine American community
Surfside has also long been an enclave for the Argentine-American community. Nine Argentines were missing as of Thursday afternoon, the country’s Miami consulate said on Twitter. La Capital in Rosario, Argentina, reported that two Argentinian actors, Gimena Accardi and Nicolás Vázquez, were staying in the building but could escape to safety.
Silvana Juárez, 49, of Argentina, lived near the condo building and told USA TODAY that three of her good friends and a young child were missing. Also among the missing are Andres Galfrascoli and Fabian Nuñez and their 6-year-old daughter, Sofia, who had spent Wednesday night at the apartment of a friend, Nicolas Fernandez.
Galfrascoli is a Buenos Aires plastic surgeon, and Nuñez is a theater producer and accountant. “Of all days, they chose the worst to stay there,” Fernandez said. “I hope it’s not the case, but if they die like this, that would be so unfair.”
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Other South American immigrants
As of late Thursday, 20% of the people unaccounted for in the wake of the building’s collapse were South Americans, and news of the failure was on the front page of news organization websites across the hemisphere. Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted Friday that authorities have helped relatives of missing people from over a dozen countries get visas to travel to Florida.
Among the missing are Antonio and Gladys Lozano, both in their 80s, who moved from Cuba years ago, their grandson Sergio Lozano Jr. said. “My grandfather always said when he retired, he wanted to retire on the beach,” Lozano Jr. said. “He wanted to be able to walk out on his balcony and look at the beach.”
Juan Mora Sr. and his wife Ana Mora, also Cuban immigrants, are part of a tight-knit Cuban American community in the area. Their son, Juan Jr., who works as an executive for Morton Salt in Chicago, stayed with them when the building collapsed.
Their longtime friend, Danny Ugarte, said Ana Mora is a devout Catholic and once worked for Delta Airlines, allowing her family to travel the world. Ugarte’s mother, Jeanne, a close friend of Ana Mora, described her as a devout Catholic and a caring, loving person who often went on missionary trips to Santo Domingo to help build churches and bridges. Jeanne said she was beginning to lose hope.
“I know they’re not going to find them (alive),” she said. “It’s been too long.” Luis Fernando Barth, a 51-year-old director of a nonprofit organization, visited Colombia with his wife, Catalina Gomez, a 45-year-old lawyer, and their 14-year-old daughter, Valeria Barth, Gomez’s brother-in-law, José Luis Arango, said. They are among six missing Colombians.
Julio Velasquez, 66, and Angela Velasquez, 60, were with their daughter, Theresa Velasquez, when the building collapsed, said Theresa’s uncle, Fernando Velasquez. Fernando Velasquez described Julio, born in Colombia, as a devout Catholic who enjoyed soccer and traveling with his wife. He was also writing a book about religion.
“He was a breath of fresh air. He was a peacemaker. He was a joy,” Fernando Velasquez said. Angela owns a small men’s clothing shop called Fiorelli. Fernando Velasquez described her as a beautiful person who was always smiling.
Relatives of the first lady of Paraguay
Six Paraguayans are unaccounted for, according to the country’s foreign ministry. Among them are relatives of the first lady of Paraguay, Leticia Robert, a spokesperson for the Consul General of Paraguay in Miami, told USA TODAY. They included the first lady’s sister, Sofia Lopez Moreira Bó, her sister’s husband, Luis Pettengill, and their three children and nanny, Lady Vanessa Luna Villalba.
Luna, a 23-year-old daughter of farmers, studied nursing and cared for the family’s three children. Her brother, Richard Luna, prayed for a miracle as he watched news reports in Paraguay. “She had many hopes of progressing and helping our parents,” he said. “We are emotionally devastated.”
President Mario Abdo announced he had canceled activities for Thursday and Friday to be with his wife. The first lady is planning to travel to Miami on Friday night, Gilmer Moreira, press director of Paraguay’s presidential palace, said.
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Among the missing: A doctor, teacher, yoga instructor
Friday morning, family, friends, and colleagues hadn’t heard from Dr. Brad Cohen, a 51-year-old orthopedic surgeon. Colleagues at Cohen’s medical practice, Aventura Orthopaedics, and Sports Medicine held out hope. “We have people looking out in the hospitals, and anywhere he might be,” receptionist Joselyne Cheramy said. “We’re clueless.”
“His phone is not picking up,” Khafizov’s realtor, Tatiana Asailov, said through tears, adding Cohen has a “very attached” daughter who is around 12 years old. A sailor knows the condo like the back of her hand. “To me, his master bedroom where he would sleep is located right at the end, and I still hope that that room is still there,” Asailov said. “I look at the broken building, and I hope.”
Pablo Rodriguez, 40, a Miami native, said his 64-year-old mother and 88-year-old grandmother lived in the wing that collapsed. He last spoke to his mom Wednesday when they chatted about weekend plans. His grandmother’s 89th birthday is next month. Rodriguez was planning to surprise her with brunch at a nice restaurant. “I came to the center, but I have no hope,” Rodriguez said in tears on Thursday.
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Carlos Guests-Bonilla told USA TODAY that no one has heard from his friend, Hilda Noriega, a 40-year resident of the building. After repeated phone calls, her voicemail inbox appears to be complete, Guests-Bonilla said. Noriega is also the mother of Carlos Noriega, a police chief in North Bay Village, Florida. “She is a wonderful and proud individual whom my parents adored and highly cherished,” he said. “We hope and pray she can be accounted for.”
Arnie Notkin, a retired Miami-area elementary school physical education teacher, and his wife, Myriam, are also missing. Fortuna Smukler, a friend, described them as joyful people and said Notkin always had a story to tell. “Originally, there were rumors that he had been found, but it was a case of mistaken identity,” Smukler said. “It would be a miracle if they’re found alive.” Ashley Dean rushed to South Florida from New Orleans after receiving a frantic call from her sister’s husband. Dean’s sister, Cassondra Stratton, a yoga instructor, was missing. “We’re just holding out hope,” Dean said.
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USA TODAY is compiling reports of people missing following the building collapse. Here’s what we know:
►Judith Spiegel, 65, is one of the scores of residents still missing. Her husband, Kevin Spiegel, was in California on a business trip when he woke in the middle of the night Thursday to an email alert from his Surfside condo saying the building had partially collapsed. He promptly called his daughter, Rachel, to drive to the building and look for Judith – Rachel’s mother – who was still inside. Rachel spent the entire day at the scene of the ruined building and the family reunification area, where she waited anxiously for news. “At the end of the day, they asked me to do a DNA sample,” Spiegel said in a phone interview. “So it’s tough. It’s tough.”
►Jay Kleiman, 52, was back in town from Puerto Rico to attend a funeral for an old high school friend who had lost a long battle with COVID-19. His brother Frankie Kleiman and his mother Nancy Kress Levin were also staying at the apartment.
►Chaim Rosenberg arrived in Florida from New York just hours before the building’s collapse, said close family friend Rabbi Leib Ezagui of the Jewish Community Synagogue in North Palm Beach. Rosenberg moved up his flight by a day to prepare for the arrival of his daughter and son-in-law, who were visiting from New Jersey, Ezagui said. All three remain missing. “It’s unfathomable,” Ezagui said Friday. “It’s shocking. All we can do is remember that every moment is dear. Every second should be cherished.”
►Magaly Delgado, 80, was living on the ninth floor when the building collapsed. Delgado is “one 80-year-old woman that might survive,” her daughter, Magaly Ramsey, said. Ramsey said her mother moved from Cuba in the 1960s and had lived at the condo for more than 10 years. “We hope for a miracle because we’re people of faith, and we believe in God’s grace,” Ramsey said. “If she was taken from us, which very well could be, that she didn’t feel a thing is what you would want.”
►Manuel LaFont, 54, was asleep when the building fell, his ex-wife, Adriana LaFont, told the USA TODAY Network. The 42-year-old woman said the debris resembled a war zone. “When I saw it, I almost died,” LaFont said in Spanish. “It felt like those walls fell on me, too.” LaFont shares two children, a son, and a daughter, with her ex-husband. She holds out hope he will be pulled from the rubble. ” have a lot of hope,””LaFont saidI’m very, very Catholic,””she saidDannyanny was very Catholic. The last I’m going going to lose is to hope the’s’sOK.””►Edgar Gonzalez, 45, is an attorney in his unit with his wife and daughter, who were both rescued and are in stable condition after surgery, the Washington Post reported.
►Marina Azen, 77, lived in the building for 20 years and suffered from asthma, the Washington Post reported.
►Anaely Guara, 41, GGuara’shusband, Marcos, 55, and their daughters, who are 4 and 11 years old, could not be found by relative Betsy Gonzalez, the Washington Post reported. Gonzalez told the newspaper that Anaely was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. as a teenager before meeting Marcos, who worked in hotels.
►Claudio Bonnefoy, 85, the second cousin of former Chilean President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, is missing. His Filipino-American wife, Maria Bonnefoy, a 69-year-old artist, is also missing.
►Their niece Sarina Patel told CNN that Vishal Patel, his wife Bhavna Patel, and their 1-year-old daughter Aishani Patel are missing. She added that Bhavna Patel is four months pregnant.
►Four Venezuelans who were studying in Gainesville, Florida, are missing, América TeVé reported. Their names are Moisés Rodán, 28; Andrés Levine, 27 years old; Luis Sadovnic, 28; and Nicole Langenfeld, the station reported.
►Alfredo Leone and his son Lorenzo Leone were residents of unit 513, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Married couple Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Members of the Shul, including Nancy Kress Levin, Jay Kleinman, Frankie Kleinman, Arie Leib, Yisroel Tzvi Yosef, and Tzvi Doniel, were missing the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
►The family of Sophia Lopez, who traveled to Florida from Uruguay, was unable to contact her, WPLG Local 10 reported. Three Uruguayans were affected, according to country officials.
►Friends say they have been unable to contact Luis Alberto Pettengill, Sophia Maria Margarita Pettengill, and their children Anna Sophia, 6, Alexia Maria, 9, and Luis Vincente, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Mercy Urgelles, a pharmacy director, and her husband, Ray Urgelles, have not been found, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Linda March, an attorney, recently moved back from New York to Surfside before the collapse, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Harry Rosenberg was visiting his daughter, Malky Weisz, and her husband, Benny Weisz, friends told WPLG Local 10. All three of them are missing, said Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. “”e pray that Benny and Malky Weisz of Lakewood, and MMalky’sfather Harry Rosenberg—and all those who remain missing—are found and rescued after the catastrophic collapse of their condo building,””Smith said in a statement.
►Family and friends are searching for Michael Altman, according to a family statement sent to WPLG Local 10.
►Oresme Gil Guerra and Betty Guerra lived on the 9th floor, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Leon Oliwkowicz, 79, and Christina Elvira Oliwkowicz, 74, have not been found, their daughter told WPLG Local 10.
►Gabriella Cattarossi’s daughter, Estella, is missing, along with CCattarossi’selderly parents, a friend told WPLG Local 10.
►Luis Andres Bermudez and his mother, Ana Ortiz, are missing, the family told WPLG Local 10. BBermudez’scousin told the station that Bermudez has muscular dystrophy catwalkwalk. The Miami Herald reported that OOrtiz’shusband, Frank Kleiman, is also missing.
►After they got married, Nicole and Ruslan Manashirov moved into the apartment just two months ago, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Simon Segal, an engineer, lived on the 11th floor, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Rosi Maza-Saez ddidn’tlive at the building but was staying there overnight; loved ones told WPLG Local 10.
►Richard Augustine and Elaine Sabino are missing, WPLG Local 10 reported.
►Maria Rovirosa and her husband, Ricky, are missing, NBC Miami reported.
►Ana Mora lived on the 10th floor with her husband, Juan, NBC Miami said.
►A friend of Estelle Hedaya has not been able to contact her, the New York Daily News reported.
►Ruslan Manshirov and Nicole Doran-Manshirov lived on the seventh floor, NBC Miami said.
►Jose A. Gonzalez, an attorney, and wife Maria Gonzalez, a therapist, are missing, the Miami Herald reported.
►Lois Marcus is missing, the Miami Herald reported.
►Chaya Gila bas Yehudis is missing, the Miami Herald reported.
Contributing: Thomas J. Weber, Fresh Take Florida; Adam Regan, The News-Press/Naples Daily News; Grace Hauck, Nada Hassanein, Mary Claire Malloy, Wendy Rhodes, Marc Ramirez, Leora Arnowitz, USA TODAY; Jodie Wagner, Palm Beach Daily News; Antonio Fins, Victoria Villanueva-Marquez, and Hannah Morse, Palm Beach Post; The Associated Press. Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.