Frustration Mounts in Seek for Survivors of Condominium Collapse Close to Miami

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“I came home, made breakfast and slept maybe five hours,” he said.

For the time being, concerned families were relocated from a community center to a neighboring hotel so that they could feel more comfortable. Authorities planned to brief her about the search and rescue operations every four hours.

And survivors continued to tell amazing stories about how they escaped harm.

Marian Smeraldi-Lopez, who lived with her family on the sixth floor, said she came out by stairs.

“There were no apartments to be seen on this north side,” she said. “Just air, rubble and rubble.”

Ms. Smeraldi-Lopez, her husband Alfredo Lopez and their 24-year-old son Michael Lopez grabbed a flashlight, cell phones and glasses and ran away in their pajamas. Dust had seeped in from the glass doors and windows. There was no electricity. An alarm went off somewhere. The apartment next to hers, she said, “was gone”.

She and her family stayed close to the wall and slowly moved past an elevator bench. At the stairs they joined a line of residents streaming down from the upper floors. Families called to keep an eye on the bereaved. The water in the garage was up to her ankles.

Outside, they climbed over a broken pool deck wall and wanted to reach the beach in case an earthquake destroyed it, which they still believed to be an earthquake: “I was convinced the aftershock would happen,” she said.

But when they reached a clearing, she turned. Only part of the building had collapsed and the buildings around them were unscathed.

She was terrified to understand her plight.

“It was just our building,” she said, “and it stopped in front of our apartment.”

The coverage was contributed by Richard Fausset, Giulia Heyward, Michael Majchrowicz and Joseph B. Treaster from Surfside. Coverage was also contributed by Mike Baker, Manny Fernandez, Christine Hauser, Sophie Kasakove, Alyssa Lukpat and Mitch Smith. Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.