All day and into the night on Friday, rescuers worked through thunderstorms that left pockets of flooding, and grappled with on-and-off fires whose smoke hung over the unstable pile of rubble. Dousing them was out of the question, so emergency workers tore through the debris to get to the source of the flames and pull it away.
Search-and-rescue teams burrowed underneath the debris from a parking garage, drilling through concrete and inserting probes with cameras to peer through the rubble. Specialized hearing devices alerted them to sounds that might mean people were still alive and trapped — tapping scratching, falling debris and twisting metal.
Above, two cranes gingerly removed debris from the pile on Friday with metal claws. When they paused, firefighters with red buckets clambered up to dig by hand.
The rescue workers also used dogs and sonar equipment, but the debris pile was unstable and it was slow going, officials said. “They are in the tunnels. They’re in the water. They’re on top of the rubble pile,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County told CNN on Friday night.
A team of federal investigators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology was dispatched to the disaster site on Friday to begin piecing together causes of the collapse.
The investigators will look for corroded components, an undermined foundation or defects in the construction or design, engineering and architectural experts said.
The building — a 13-story structure at 8777 Collins Avenue — was about to undergo extensive repairs for corrosion and concrete spalling, or flaking, as part of a required rehabilitation for buildings when they reach 40 years of age. It is also on a plot where the land is sinking in ways neighboring properties are not.