Miami, FL

Miami building collapse: Woman, 64, living in condo was woken by ‘creaking noises’ the night before

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A 64-year-old woman missing in the Miami condo tower disaster had told her son she was woken by ‘creaking noises’ in the building the day before it collapsed.

Pablo Rodriguez told CNN Thursday that his mother had complained the noises had been loud enough to wake her up at around 3 or 4am.

Rodriguez said he had thought nothing of it at the time, thinking it was simply an ‘offhand’ comment.

Hours later, the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, near Miami Beach, collapsed, killing four and leaving at least 159 missing.

Rodriguez has not heard from her since. 

His 64-year-old mom and 88-year-old grandmother are among the people still unaccounted for, more than 36 hours on from the disaster.

A 64-year-old woman missing in the Miami condo tower disaster had told her son she was woken by ‘creaking noises’ in the building the day before it collapsed. Pablo Rodriguez’s mother and grandmother (pictured) are missing

The death toll climbed to four Friday with 159 people still missing following the collapse of the condo tower 

‘She just told me she had woken up around 3 [or] 4 in the morning and had heard like some creaking noises,’ he said. 

‘They were loud enough to wake her.

‘It was like a comment that she made off-hand, like that’s why she woke up and she wasn’t able to go back to sleep afterwards.’ 

Rodriguez said he had been thinking about that conversation and whether the sound was a sign of the impending danger. 

‘Now, in hindsight, you always wonder,’ he said.

Rodriguez said the family had been looking forward to spending time together with his six-year-old son and were making plans to celebrate his grandmother’s 89th birthday next month.  

He said his hopes for their safe return were fading as he was yet to hear any news about their whereabouts. 

‘You always hold out hope, until you definitively know. But after seeing the video of the collapse, it’s increasingly difficult, because they were in that section that was pancaked in,’ he said. 

On Friday, Rodriguez told CNN he was going to the family reunification center to give his DNA along with other families desperately waiting to hear from their loved ones. 

his son had seen the footage of the tower collapsing and was asking questions about when he would see his grandmother and great-grandmother.

Pablo Rodriguez told CNN Thursday that his mother had complained the noises had been loud enough to wake her up at around 3 or 4am. Rodriguez said he had thought nothing of it at the time, thinking it was simply an ‘offhand’ comment

‘He’s asking us, and right now we’re not sure what to tell him. He may understand, I don’t know if he’s processed it completely,’ Rodriguez said. 

‘We’re trying to hold off until we officially know before we make it clear to him.’ 

Rodriguez questioned how the building could have suddenly collapsed ‘without anybody, you know, knowing something or missing something.’ 

‘To get to the point where it collapsed, somebody had to have seen something, somebody had to know something,’ he told the network.

‘Buildings don’t just fall down like this. Especially when they’re being inspected and rebuilt. 

‘So that is the hardest thing to process, how this happened without anybody, you know, knowing something or missing something.’ 

Four people have been confirmed dead in the tragedy, including 54-year-old Stacie Fang who was pulled from the rubble early Thursday and rushed to hospital, where she died. 

Fang was the mother of Jonah Handler, 15, who was seen in dramatic footage being rescued from the rubble with the help of a passing dog walker.

Rescue teams continue to search the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Florida

Personal belongings and pieces of furniture can be seen inside the partially collapsed building Friday morning

Rescue workers walk among the rubble where part of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed Thursday 

Jonah was taken to hospital where he is recovering from his injuries. 

The identities of the other three victims have not been revealed. 

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said early Friday morning 159 people were still missing following the building’s collapse. 

Search teams have been working round the clock hunting for survivors, with rescue crews seen combing the rubble with heavy machinery, dogs, sonar and by hand all day Friday.

By late afternoon, no further victims or survivors were reported to have been found. 

At least 37 people were rescued from the rubble or parts of the damaged building still standing, with 11 injured and four hospitalized. 

Cava warned the number of people missing was ‘very fluid.’ 

Officials had initially said 99 people were unaccounted for following the building’s collapse. But, with the tower housing a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, authorities were unsure exactly how many people were inside at the time.

An aerial view of the disaster Friday as the search for survivors entered a second day

People hug as they wait for news about relatives at the community center in Surfside, with 159 people still missing

A total of 55 condos collapsed on Thursday – more than a third of the 136 within the building. Around 80 percent of the building was reportedly occupied. 

Officials said Thursday they believed the building had been ‘substantially full’ and pleaded to the public for information about anyone who may have been inside.   

Sources close to the investigation told most of the people in the building were tourists from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia and had traveled to the US to get COVID-19 vaccines which are difficult to get in their respective countries.

At least 31 Latin American citizens are currently unaccounted for – including nine Argentinians, six people each from Paraguay, Columbia and Venezuela, three from Uruguay and one Chilean – but, sources said many people are thought to have been renting the condos as Airbnbs, meaning it may be difficult to identify all the victims.

Among those known to be missing are the first cousin of the former president of Chile and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the president of Paraguay’s sister-in-law and her family, and a celebrity plastic surgeon.  

Paraguay’s First Lady Silvana López Moreira arrived into Florida Thursday as her sister Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill, and their three young children remained missing more than 24 hours on from the disaster.

Rescue teams have been working round the clock since the collapse of the 12-story condo building Thursday morning

Officials said the focus of the search had turned to combing through the rubble after the parts of the building still standing were fully cleared

The family were said to be celebrating Luis’ birthday after they traveled to the US for their COVID-19 vaccines.  

President Joe Biden said Friday he had spoken on the phone with Governor Ron DeSantis and had sent ‘all the help they need’ to Florida to assist in the rescue mission. 

‘The best people’ from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were drafted in to the state, he said, after he issued an emergency declaration just after midnight.   

While the focus now is on the hunt for survivors, questions are being asked about what caused the 1980s building to suddenly collapse.  uestions continued to mount over the cause of the tragedy and whether it could have been avoided.

It emerged Thursday that scientists had warned that the condo building was sinking and in a potentially dangerous condition one year before it collapsed, while it was due a safety certification review for the first time in 40 years. It had also just undergone improvements to its roof. 

Authorities have not yet determined what caused the collapse and Miami-Dade police have opened an investigation – though Mayor Cava said ‘there has been no evidence found of foul play.’   

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