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Rescuers Race the Clock in Miami Where 159 Are Missing, Billy Graham Trauma Chaplains Arrive on Scene

06-25-2021
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Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., Thursday, June 24, 2021. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., Thursday, June 24, 2021. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

The search and rescue effort continues today near Miami after a 12-story beachfront condo building partially collapsed in the overnight hours while residents were sleeping on Thursday. 

At least four people are known to be dead and scores of others are believed to be trapped in the rubble. Today's rescue mission means searching for 159 people who are still unaccounted for at the Champlain Towers South. 

“Every time we hear a sound, we concentrate on those areas,” said Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief Raide Jadallah.

There's growing concern that the death toll may rise sharply, so rescuers are racing to search for any living souls who may be trapped.

Among the 159 missing are people from around the world: A beloved retired Miami-area teacher and his wife, Orthodox Jews from Russia, Israelis, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady, and many others from South America.

In the first hours after the collapse, rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the wreckage. But overnight heading into Friday they pulled out three bodies of deceased residents.

The stories that have emerged are heartbreaking. In one of them, rescuers are trying to reach a child, whose parents are feared dead. In another case, a mother and child were saved, but the mother's leg had to be amputated to pull her from the rubble. 

The greater Miami community in Florida is coming together to help however they can. Some are bringing anything they think might help, like baby diapers and water. 

Lawrence Boulos from Kendall, FL brought food hoping to provide some comfort for those inside who are likely going through one of the worst times in their life. He said he knows what it's like for tragedy to strike loved ones. 

Boulos said, "I'm from Haiti. In 2010 there was a devastating earthquake that happened and I wasn't there but I have family there even though I wasn't there I know what is it to need help and stuff." 

"I think the tough part is when people realize the real outcome," one resident said. "It's gonna be devastating. A lot of people are going to be dead."

Several Miami-based groups are organizing relief efforts. Religious organizations, like a synagogue in Skylake, are asking for donations to help the families of those impacted. So far, their online donation fund has raised more than $728,000. 

Miami clergy also say they are joining relief efforts. They will hold mass for all those affected by the collapse of the condo. 

And the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has trauma counselors on-site to pray and minister to the victims and first responders.

Josh Holland, assistant director for BG-RRT, said, "Our crisis-trained chaplains are available to listen, and we want all of those who were impacted—including the first responders who are part of the search-and-rescue efforts—to know that God still loves them and cares about them, even in the midst of such pain and sadness."

"Pray for the family members of those who lived in the building waiting to hear if their loved ones are safe or not," Franklin Graham said on Facebook. "The Bible tells us, 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' (Psalm 46:1)."
 
Our prayers remain with the rescuers, the family members, and the lives lost. 

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