According to Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade Mayor, the death toll due to the collapse of a condo building on Florida’s beachfront has now reached nine.
The hospital had one patient who died, while workers pulled four additional bodies from the wreckage.
Numerous rescue workers were still on the rubble pile, trying to find survivors from the 150 others who are still missing. The mayor announced that four of the victims have been identified and their next-of-kin have been notified.
Four days after Thursday’s fall, more 150 people are still unaccounted for in Surfside. Authorities and loved ones fear that the death toll will rise.
The Noriega family hoped their 92-year old matriarch Hilda Noriega would survive as rotating rescue teams used power tools and heavy machinery to remove the rubble from the top.
Mike Noriega was horrified to hear that a portion of the condo tower where his grandmother lived had fallen. He rushed with his father and ran to get help. The remains of Champlain Towers South, a 12-story building, was found in a 30-foot pile of concrete and metal.
They found mementos of Hilda’s life at the sixth floor. An old photo of Hilda with her husband and infant son and a birthday card her friends had sent two weeks before with the acronym ESM, Spanish for “hand delivered,” written across the yellow envelope.
Mike Noriega said that there was a message hidden in all the chaos. He last spoke to his grandmother on the day before the tragedy. It means to not lose hope. To have faith
Charles Burkett, the Mayor of Surfside, assured families that rescuers are working continuously. He stated that rescuers had only one goal: to pull their families out of the rubble.
“We won’t stop doing this — not today, nor tomorrow, and not the next day.” We will continue until everyone is out.
Hilda was described by the Noriega family as a vibrant, independent and passionate retiree. Mike said that she is “the youngest 92 year-old I know… 92 going on to 62.”
Champlain Towers South had been Hilda Noriega’s home for over 20 years. Six years after her husband’s passing, she was ready for the move. She was going to move in with her family, as the condo was up for sale.
Hilda loved being near the ocean and her friends but she said that “when you lose your spouse, you want to surround yourself by family… and she wanted more time with family and grandchildren.” Sally Noriega is Hilda’s daughter in law.
Hilda Noriega, her daughter in law, described her as a loving woman who built a home with her husband and raised her family after moving to the U.S. in 1960 from Cuba.
Sally stated that she was “just one of those people who instantly loved the person she met” and that she loved her from the very first meeting.
Carlos Noriega was Hilda’s father and the police chief in North Bay Village. He was also one of the first responders to the top of the pile.
The Noriegas aren’t sure what to do with the precious mementos that were found in the chaos. But Sally stated, “We are a family based on faith.” We will leave it at that.