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Survivors Describe Harrowing Escape From Collapsing Condo; Officials: Fire Causing Incredible Difficulties In Search & Rescue; Fire Chief: Doing Everything We Can to Bring Your Family Members Out Alive; Department Of Justice Suing Georgia Over Voting Law; Four Killed In New Mexico Hot Air Balloon Accident; Latin Americans Among Missing In FL High Rise Collapse. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired June 26, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, thank you so much for joining us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Boris Sanchez coming to you live from Surfside, Florida.
WHITFIELD: So, let's begin this hour with a desperate and difficult search underway in Surfside Florida, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Yes Fred, not many updates on the 159 people still unaccounted for though we have a clearer picture of what is happening in that debris field? Officials say a fire burning under the rubble is a major concern as rescuers search for survivors. That fire is making an already difficult operation even more perilous.
All this as there are new concerns about the Condo's sister building, just a block away from the collapse. You see just how close these two buildings are? Official say that building should be evacuated. They're almost identical. The Miami-Dade Mayor ordering a full audit of all buildings in the county over 40-years-old.
Meantime, updates on the victims of the collapse, remain frustratingly limited. We do know again 159 people remain unaccounted for. Rescue teams working nonstop searching for survivors. Even as that fire rages inside the rubble and they've had to dig a trench to be able to get some safety some distance from it is complicating that search.
We're also learning today that officials raised major concerns about this Condo back in 2018. There was a structural field survey that warned of cracking and that major repairs were needed in the pool deck of this building. Those repairs were about to get underway before the unthinkable happened.
We have a full team on the ground as that search for survivors continues. Let's start with CNN's Rosa Flores who is here at the search site. Rosa, what is the latest from rescue teams? We had a press conference with officials just about an hour or so ago, not much in the way of news about what might be going on with survivors or signs of life?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know you're absolutely right. The victims list has not grown but the fire chief also saying that they are not hearing sounds of life that of course not what anybody wants to hear at this point in time.
But we do know that the search efforts are underway. They are painstaking. They are dangerous. But these men and women continue to risk their lives to try to save others. Here's the latest that we've heard from fire officials, they say that the smoldering fire is really their focus right now because they're trying to get to it in order to put it out.
It is smoldering, they don't know exactly what is burning? It is deep within this building. And they need to get to that fire in order for them to put it out. Now they had just been using water before today. For the first time we've heard officials mentioned that they're also using foam to put out this fire.
They also created a trench to get to the area where this fire is smoldering. It's unclear exactly where this trench is? They didn't go into those specifics. But they did say that along the way they were of course listening for signs of life. They were trying to figure out if there was anybody along this path that they were creating, that was alive.
Now again, the chief saying that they did not hear any sounds of life. Now we're also learning from officials that that county officials are asking for an audit of all of the buildings in the county of Miami- Dade that are 40 years or older that are five storeys or higher.
They want an audit because of what has happened here at this site in Surfside. They're asking for the support of city officials because of course the county doesn't have jurisdiction of the entire geographic area. So they're asking city officials to do the same thing so that all of the buildings in Miami-Dade are covered.
Now, I did ask the fire chief about this new information that we're hearing from the structural report from October of 2018 that specifies that there was major structural damage to this building. I asked him if this has any impact in the search and rescue going on right now. Here's what he said. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, ma'am. Everything impacts our search and rescue efforts. I mean, just the magnitude of this collapse. And the type of collapse it is; is one of the most difficult.
We've been searching through any void any crevice that we see is what we've been accessing. And that is why we were searching from below. We're continuing those efforts. We have to shift based on our circumstances and where we're looking.
(END VIDEO CLIP) FLORES: Now, Boris, he didn't specify exactly how that information is being used during the search right now. One of the commissioners did say that he vows that this county will do everything it can to make sure that this doesn't happen again. They vow to pass legislation to make sure that a collapse like the one we're looking at right now doesn't happen again in Miami-Dade, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Of course. There is so much important work ahead not only in the forensics in figuring out how this happened and if it could have been prevented, and accountability, holding potentially someone responsible. But also, we should focus on the families and those still struggling to get answers for their loved ones. Rosa Flores thanks so much for that report.
Let's pivot now to Nick Valencia. He's here on scene in Surfside at a center where families are awaiting a response from officials to get answers about their loved ones. They are hoping for the best.
Nick, it has to be agonizing to hear what they heard just about an hour and a half ago from the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, explaining that the numbers have not changed from 24 hours ago, there are still 159 people that are missing.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris, this is a growingly desperate situation. And we saw that and heard that in video that was posted just a little while ago to social media that we're trying to get cleared for air right now.
But it was posted by Abigail Pereira, who's two friends and six-year- old daughter, she says are among the missing. She believes that they're still alive buried under the rubble. But again, this video that was posted on social media shows a very tense exchange between those family and friends inside what has become the reunification center in this hotel that you see behind me.
Those families and friends of the unaccounted just grilling local officials which included State Official Governor Ron DeSantis, who was there at one point a woman stood up and said to the governor directly, just imagine what you would do and how you would feel if your daughter was buried under the rubble?
It was about 25 minutes in that somebody from the family and friends stood up addressing those that were clearly very emotional and said this is not an us versus them scenario. They are doing the best they can. But some of the themes that were discussed in that briefing from the video that we saw were an emphasis by family and friends, to bring in more resources and to perhaps bring in people that have more of an experience in dealing with situations like this.
There was a plea for local and state officials to allow access to Israeli officials who they say have more experience in dealing with disaster like situations like this. The county officials pushing back and saying that they are certified just as well as anyone else is in this scenario. And they are doing as much as they can. They just really cannot bring in any more people that create an unsafe
environment to put dozens and dozens more first responders on a very precarious debris field. You know, but it is, as I mentioned, Boris, a range of emotions, a very desperate scenario.
It is the very definition of faith for those who are holding out and holding strong believing that their loved ones are still alive. Last hour I spoke to somebody who said that they believe that their husband was still alive that they just had this gut feeling.
If hope is the last thing that is lost, there is plenty of it here in Surfside, but it is waning with every hour that passes by that we have no update, no answers, and no indication of survivors still though people are until they get confirmed and reliable information that their loved ones have perished Boris. They're holding on to the last ounce of hope that they have.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Difficult to imagine being in that position not getting answers, seeing work that is painstaking, least slow because it has to be an impossible position to be in. Nick Valencia thank you so much.
As Nick noted, hope is a word we're hearing a lot of these last few days. Some of that hope coming from people who actually were able to escape the rubble, like everyone else, they are hoping there are more survivors underneath that field of debris.
We're going to share with you now some stories of those who were able to make it out of the building, as it was coming down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A really loud clap of thunder, it kind of felt like a jet took off above the building. The chandelier is in the pendant lights just swaying completely. And that was not normal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least my husband and I woke up to that to him grabbing me and saying what is that? And the whole bedroom was just shaking so violently that honestly, I was prepared for the building to come down because it was not something stable. There was nothing going on that seemed normal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really until we open the door, we didn't know anything happened to the building. The building was intact a little left and the apartment to our left was half sheared off, looked forward which is where the elevator shaft is, and it was just a hole. So that that was the real thing at that point we knew we - it was a race against time, because I didn't know if the rest of the building was coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear this large like rumbling noise out of nowhere and I should just see like white clouds like just dust coming out. So I told my mom my sister we were also parked outside. We'll have to start running.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ran all we just see was just white dust like stick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked down the hallway and there was nothing there. It was just a pile of dust, and rubble, and paint falling from the ceilings. We went down to the garage, in the basement, water was pouring down from the pipes.
We realized that we had to get out of there because staying down there and we could drown knowing how, what it looked like outside my door. I thought that any minute we could be that same pile of rubble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just don't know by where here, the rest of the people are having gone out to the hallway and seen that it was mere feet from the wall that my kids were sleeping in. It could have been a very different thing.
I could have walked into the living room, checking on them and found that rubble and it just - I don't think I've processed it. It looks like I'm in that mode. But I don't think I'd have really process what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: We're seeing an outpouring of support here from the community helping the families of those still missing. And obviously with the rescue teams that are in place, risking their own lives to try to save lives.
The assistance is coming from multiple levels, including the federal government, President Biden spending the weekend at Camp David. The White House says that he is receiving regular updates from his Homeland Security Team on the collapse Biden already approving an emergency declaration and ordering federal assistance. Let's get up to the White House now and bring in CNN's Kevin Liptak. Kevin, what more can you tell us about how the president is responding to this tragedy?
KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the president has instructed his aides to provide as much federal assistance as Florida needs in this situation. As you said, he is up at Camp David this weekend at the presidential retreat.
He's brought along a senior national security adviser there with him and we expect him to receive updates by phone from Homeland Security Advisors who are back here in Washington. Now, we don't expect to hear or see the president until tomorrow afternoon when he gets back to Washington. But he did speak about this disaster yesterday. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to stay with him when the disaster declaration we may provide for everything from housing to God forbid, whether there's a need for moratoria for the bodies to be placed everything in between.
And but I just - I just want to say and I'm sure I speak for all the members of the Congress here today and all the survivors that it's a tough, tough time. There are so many people waiting. Are they alive? Will they be - we'll have to this our heart goes out to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIPTAK: Now, the president was speaking after a conversation with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The two men had a very businesslike talk I'm told the president was calling him after he signed that federal emergency declaration for Florida.
He signed that within hours after receiving from DeSantis. A few things that this order does it authorize FEMA to coordinate relief efforts. It provides equipment to assist with some of the debris removal; it deploys an Incident Management Assistance Team to Florida.
There are two FEMA search and rescue teams on the site now we're told. And they've also provided building science experts as they search for a reason for why this building came down? Now as of now, there are no plans for the president to go downtown Miami to visit this site of course, it's some of the teams that are involved in the search and rescue efforts are the same teams that would be needed during a presidential visit and aids don't want to interfere with the work that's underway.
All of this is a situation that the president is clearly going to have to be confronting, talking about dealing with over the next weeks and months are using some of that trademark empathy that he is known for. But maybe also pressing for more answers about why this horrible, horrible tragedy unfolded down there Boris?
SANCHEZ: Yes, Kevin, given Joe Biden's history of loss, he has a special ability to connect with those who are grieving. And it's an all hands on deck approach. So hearing from the President of the United States for folks here in Surfside is going to be critical Kevin Liptak reporting from the White House. Thank you so much.
Fred, I do want to give you a bit of good news. I don't want to jinx it here. But the weather today was expected to be stormy and nasty. And it was for a very short period right around the time that we had a press conference roughly two hours or so ago. So far the sun is out and it is hot. It is warm. The conditions aren't great for rescue is for certainly because it's not raining.
SANCHEZ: That is one factor that they do not have to contend with right now, of course, this is South Florida. It's the rainy season and that could change in the coming hours.
WHITFIELD: Yes, well, hopefully that sunshine will be some hope. Clearly the resources are pouring in the expertise is there. So many of the crews who worked on after 9/11, earthquake in Haiti and even Oklahoma City bombing, I mean, they're all there.
But they too are trying to remain hopeful, just as the countless family members of those missing still unaccounted for are as well. Boris, thank you so much. We'll check back with you. So it is a daunting task for rescuers working around the clock in Surfside. Next I'll speak with a doctor about the risks facing the men and women sifting through the rubble. And this programming note, this is the only story she never told "Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins" story premieres tomorrow night at 9 right here on CNN. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Jackie Collins. I write novels.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She puts female sexuality at the center of the world and people lost their mind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was very shy. I never really asked what she was writing, but she was always scribbling away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wrote about strength and strong women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jackie was the first author to write about women and behave like men.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She broke ground for - within.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we've quickly made her very controversial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God forbid a woman should be writing about sex.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not claiming to be an - genius. I'm claiming to be a terrific storyteller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a little tea Jackie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of the one?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was her motto.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the best.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was like a character from one of her books.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, we all love that end line justice for all female.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Alright returning to Surfside, Florida now where dozens of people are still unaccounted for in the rubble of a Condo complex that collapsed. Fires are hampering first responders and their desperate efforts to save lives. I want to talk about the health aspect of this disaster response right now with Dr. Jason Pickett, he is the Deputy Medical Director for the City of Austin and, and joins us now. Thank you so much good to see you Dr. Pickett.
So, you know, talk to me about the complications here because the fire chief said earlier, they have not come across any sign of life. However, if they were to tell us how complicated extraction would be? It's not as simple as finding someone and then pulling them from the debris. What do they have to calculate?
DR. JASON PICKETT, DEPUTY MEDICAL DIRECTOR, CITY OF AUSTIN: Well, that's absolutely right. And you have this pile of rubble that is potentially overseen living victims. And think of it like a giant game of pickup sticks, when you move something on top, something below may shift.
And any survivors right now are going to be in what we call void spaces. So an area where the structure did not completely collapsed, and they have some room there to breathe. And what we don't want to have happen is we don't want this rubble pile to shift and then on to the patient themselves. And compress that, that space or even crush the victim.
So it's a very meticulous process to dismantle this wreckage without injuring somebody that's, that's underneath it. In initials stages--
WHITFIELD: Yes, I would say and of course, there are then concerns for those who are rescuing as well, especially as you paint the picture of the shifting debris.
DR. PICKETT: Absolutely, the instability of the site is hazard to them of course, the sharp objects and so forth. One thing to consider is whatever it was that brought this building down could bring down the building next to them.
And so if there was a sinkhole or some shift in the ground that caused that collapse, then you could have more collapse of that building that's still standing. But in addition to that, you have the dust that comes from this pulverized concrete, what like what we saw at 9/11, with the lung disease suffered by rescuers there from all of this concrete dust that's in the air.
There are hazards from gases, the gas lines to the side; of course, those have been shut off by now but fuel in the vehicles under the structure. Even now a hazard that we didn't see 20 years ago when 9/11 occurred is you have electric vehicles, and they are basically huge batteries with an enormous amount of electricity in them sitting in water in the parking garage.
So these are all hazards that the rescuers are having to contend with as a very deliberately move through this wreckage shoring it up making sure it doesn't shift on to the victims and then piecing it apart and doing what we call de-layering of the wreckage.
WHITFIELD: And then how do they contend with it? You're talking about the solvents, the chemicals, the dust, this gigantic compound of very dangerous elements. What about for the apparatus that these rescue crews would need for breathing or perhaps even protecting their own skin? I mean, what kind of tools do they have?
DR. PICKETT: Well, I'm sure you've seen all the rescuers walking around in these long sleeve long pants suits that they wear, wearing dust protection, respiratory protection, N-95 masks and the like. Although in working in that environment, those get clogged very quickly and you have to change out your filters.
They're wearing heavy gloves heavy boots to protect themselves from the physical hazards. They also have detectors for hazardous gases and the likes.
DR. PICKETT: So, if the space that they're getting into if the air is bad, then those detectors can help them know that before they get in there so they can ventilate those spaces or even put on better respiratory protection, such as self-contained breathing apparatus.
WHITFIELD: Unbelievable heroic work that they are doing. And we've heard from the fire chief who says many of them just don't even want to take a break. They just want to keep going, holding out hope that they're going to find someone to rescue. Dr. Jason Pickett, thank you so much.
DR. PICKETT: Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: And we continue to watch the scene in Surfside, Florida. But next to Washington where a battle is brewing between the Justice Department and the State of Georgia, details on the pending lawsuit.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're still monitoring the desperate search and rescue efforts underway in Surfside Florida. Officials say a fire burning under the rubble is a major concern as rescuers search for survivors. That fire making an already difficult operation even more perilous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We're facing very incredible difficulties with this fire. The fire has been going on for a while. It's a very deep fire. It's extremely difficult to locate the source of the fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: It's now been two days since a condominium building partially collapsed. CNN has learned that a structural field survey completed in 2018 warned of structural damage and that the building needed major repairs. Right now search teams are sifting through the rubble trying to find 159 people still unaccounted for. At least four people died in the collapse. We will stay on top of this story and bring you any updates as soon as they become available.
Despite President Biden declaring we have a deal, Republican opposition to a bipartisan infrastructure bill is growing. The President announced the framework this week only to threaten to veto the bill unless a second larger spending package was passed as well. CNN's Ryan Nobles explains.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It didn't take long that bipartisan infrastructure deal that everyone here on Capitol Hill was touting on Thursday is already starting to run into some roadblocks. Some Republicans that were involved in the deal making even that group of 10 Republicans in the group that was part of the negotiating process seems to be very concerned about what President Biden had to say, during his press conference when he took reporters' questions about this deal.
And essentially, what they're most upset about is that Biden said that he would not sign that bipartisan deal, unless there was also that reconciliation package the much bigger infrastructure package, also on his desk at the same time. And some of these Republicans believe that this is essentially holding that bipartisan deal hostage and that they didn't sign up for both of these deals, they only signed up for the bipartisan deal that they negotiated.
Of course, that broader infrastructure package, the so called human infrastructure package which Biden is touting as his American family's plan, that could be in the neighborhood of anywhere between 4 and $6 trillion. It could also include tax increases that Republicans are not interested in right now.
And that's forced the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to warn his fellow Republican colleagues, that they may not want to be a part of this bipartisan package, if it also means that it's going to come along with that big $6 trillion package as well.
Now, this is not to say that this deal has been completely taken off the rails, you know, both Republicans and Democrats held a conference call on Friday afternoon where they attempted to hash out some of these differences. They did voice their frustration about the White House's rhetoric at this point.
So the White House is maintaining that at this point, they still believe they want to see both, they want to see that bipartisan package, they want to see the reconciliation package at the same time. And it's also worth pointing out that that's the plan for the House of Representatives as well.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi only endorsing the bipartisan package because that bigger package was going to be a part of this process, just shows though how difficult these next few weeks will be in the summer months for them to pull off these massive spending plans and do it in a relatively short amount of time. Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.
WHITFIELD: The Justice Department files a lawsuit over new voter laws. Laws it says is aimed at denying black Georgians the right to vote. CNN's Jessica Schneider is following the developments.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Justice Department is suing the state of Georgia over new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans in that state in the wake of the 2020 election. The state law imposes several new mandates including new I.D. requirements for absentee ballots, limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, and even making it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.
Now the Attorney General Merrick Garland, he's saying that those restrictions amount to denying black people the right to vote and that's why DOJ is now suing Georgia under the Voting Rights Act. Georgia of course has become ground zero in the battle over voting rights since Republicans there have enacted these new restrictions. And of course former President Trump zeroed in on Georgian officials back in January, asking them to find him more votes after he claimed voter fraud in the state.
This lawsuit, though, could be a long fight for the Biden administration. Both the Governor and the Secretary of State in Georgia, both of whom are Republicans are promising to defeat this lawsuit with the Governor there saying the Biden administration has weaponized the DOJ to carry out its far left agenda. Now the state of Georgia is already facing lawsuits from several civil rights groups. They also say that these new laws violate federal law.
Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, an investigation into the Trump Organization by the Manhattan district attorney could result in charges as early as next week. CNN's Paula Reid explains what those charges could be.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has informed lawyers for the Trump Organization that it could be charged as soon as next week. Now, these prospective charges include allegations that the Trump Organization tried to avoid paying payroll taxes on certain benefits granted to employees, including rent free apartments and cars.
Now it would be very unusual to indict a company for not paying taxes on fringe benefits. Former President Trump has suggested that these ongoing investigations into his organization are politically motivated. Now CNN has also learned that longtime Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg could also be charged as soon as next week, he would also be charged in connection to benefits that he received and may not have properly disclosed.
Now prosecutors have been putting pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate against other people in the Trump Organization. But CNN has learned that his team has informed the prosecutors that Weisselberg will not cooperate. So we'll see what happens next week but it could be a difficult one for the Trump Organization.
Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: And this breaking news out of New Mexico, four people have died in a hot air balloon accident, details in minute. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: And we have this breaking news out of New Mexico where four people are dead following a hot air balloon crash. CNN's Alison Kosik joining me now with more of this. How did this happen?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka we are learning details at the moment but here's what we know so far, five people total involved, four have died, one has been taken to the hospital. Now this all began around 7:00 a.m. local time. This was happening in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos is telling us that the balloon actually crashed into some power lines at the intersection of Central Avenue and Unser Boulevard with the balloon actually hitting the top wires.
And the gondola also hitting a top wire but skirting along it. It caught fire and then crashed into the intersection. And by the time Fire officials and police got there, four people were already dead. One as I said has been transported to the hospital and is listed in critical and unstable condition. The crash causing a power outage affecting at least 13,000 customers, the electric company is keeping the power off while they work on the lines for people safety.
The power company issuing the following statement saying everyone at Powering New Mexico, that's the name of the of the power company, is deeply saddened by this tragic loss. We are thinking about the family and friends affected by today's event.
So they are saying that it is going to take some time to restore power because investigators are still doing their work. Once the investigation is complete, they will turn the power back on and the investigation will move to the FAA and the NTSB to take over. But five people involved in this, four people dead in this hot air balloon crash, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Terribly sad. All right, Alison Kosik thank you so much.
All right, the collapse happened right here in the U.S. but some of those missing in Florida come from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, just to name a few. And now several Latin American countries have confirmed their citizens we're in that Surfside Florida condominium.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: We're back live in Surfside, Florida where just a few 100 feet from me there is a desperate search that is ongoing and the clock is ticking in that effort to find survivors in a deadly building collapse. On Thursday, a building came crashing down.
Dozens of the missing 159 people are from Latin American countries. This is after all South Florida, an international city, a melting pot. Their families are anxiously awaiting to hear any news about their loved ones as days go by and more rubble and debris gets cleared.
Let's go to CNN's Matt Rivers, he's live from Mexico City now and he spoke with some of these family members. Matt, this is just an agonizing position to be in without certainty about what happened to someone you love.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And that's what we've heard consistently, Boris, that's the worst part of all of this, for these people is the waiting without any news. As of this moment, 31 people from six different countries across South America remain unaccounted for.
RIVERS (voice-over): The collapse happened on American soil, but the impact of this tragedy extends far beyond U.S. borders. Dozens of citizens from countries around Latin America are missing, including Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay.
Among those who were still unaccounted for Sophia Lopez Moreira, the sister of Paraguay First Lady, along with Lopez Moreira's husband and three children. Paraguay's foreign ministry said the family went to Miami to get vaccinated and brought along the babysitter Lady Vanessa Luna Villalba. Her family told CNN, it was her first ever trip outside the country.
We're hoping for a miracle, said her cousin, but we just don't know if we should cry now or not. Also among the missing, a Chilean citizen, relatives say is related to former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. As word spread about the accident, families from across the region came to Miami for news of their loved ones.
News that was difficult to come by. Nothing, we are desperate, she says, the atmosphere changed from yesterday to today. It's not the same. Abigail Pereira is a friend of an Argentinian couple that remained missing, along with their six-year-old daughter.
Like others he or she's holding on to whatever small hope she can. She says we are people who are here with a bit of hope because it's all that we have. And the only thing they tell us is that there are these kind of microcapsules where there could be survivors. For rescuers, the work is continuing digging through debris, heavy machinery involved, occasionally doing what's called an all stop where everyone stops and listens for sounds of people who might be alive. But for families, there is only the agony of waiting, many choosing to do so inside a center set up for those with missing loved ones. It's horrible, horrible, says this woman, of what it's like inside the center, you see a lot of pain, people that are desperate.
This happened to your part of Miami known affectionately by some as little Buenos Aires. There are a lot of South American families that live or spend time here. And so as the hours go by, there is every chance that the number of South American citizens affected by this collapse goes up even as the chances of finding people alive goes down.
RIVERS: And Boris, the citizens from these different countries, a lot of those countries have consulates actually in Miami. And some of those consulates have actually gone around hospital to hospital looking for their citizens that are unaccounted for, trying to get any word about their whereabouts. Unfortunately, at this point, they haven't received a lot of good news from those inquiries, Boris.
SANCHEZ: That's right. Matt Rivers for Mexico City (INAUDIBLE) so much adversity and so much challenge this community here in Surfside in Miami more broadly is coming together. How local sports teams are lending a hand ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME BAKER, MIAMI DOLPHINS LINEBACKER: Oh, it's heartbreaking, honestly. That was the main thing for me was just heartbreaking. We just think of all the families, all the challenges all these people's lives. And right now we're just trying to give them a little hope and just give as much as we can right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARCUS SAKEY, CO-FOUNDER RITUAL ZERO PROOF: Ritual Zero Proof is a liquor replacement that lets you have the taste and experience of the cocktail without the alcohol or calories. I'm Marcus Sakey along with my wife, GG, and our best friend David Crooch, we founded Ritual Zero Proof in 2018.
Ritual started in our kitchen. It took more than 500 iterations to get it just right. Blending all natural botanical extracts that get as close as possible to the taste and bite. At first our goal was to echo the tastes of traditional spirits, gin, whiskey, tequila, and now rum.
GG SAKEY, CO-FOUNDER RITUAL ZERO PROOF: We've seen people try Ritual for the first time and you just see it on their faces, they immediately get it and that becomes part of their beverage repertoire. To be a good host you need to have nonalcoholic options for people who can't drink it, but want the taste.
DAVID CROOCH, CO-FOUNDER RITUAL ZERO PROOF: At Ritual, we set out to do for the alcohol category with the impossible burger has done for the meat category. Provide a sensible, healthy, balanced option when you choose not to have the real thing. Everyday we have a new email coming to us, thank you. Thank you. You allowed me to have my first ever a cocktail with my father who doesn't drink.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You all enjoy. Thanks.
CROOCH: We were trying to just have something to mark a moment that was special in your glass.
SANCHEZ: Back Surfside Florida now help continues to pour in for the victims. And rescue efforts are still underway at that building collapse. Professional sports teams in the South Florida area are also pitching in. CNN sports correspondent Carolyn Manno joins us now with the details.
CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Boris, sports teams that are affiliated with the Miami area are eager to do whatever they can to help in assisting the volunteers, the rescue workers, and the victims of this tragedy. The Miami Dolphins among those providing much needed food and supplies to the family reunification center located in Surfside.
And on Thursday, we saw the Miami Heat's Tyler Herro and members of the team's coaching staff going to the site, handing out water and snacks to rescue workers who have been working diligently around the clock. Here's what Marlins manager Don Mattingly and Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker had to say about the tragedy.
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DON MATTINGLY, MIAMI MARLINS MANAGER: It didn't seem to be able to get that off the news this morning and just that tragedy and seeing that, you know, be thinking about all the folks in there and hoping it's mental over there. But that was, you know, ugly looking scene over there.
BAKER: It's heartbreaking, honestly. That was the main thing for me just heartbreaking. We just think of all the families, all the challenges all these people lives. And right now I was just trying to give him a little hope and just give as much as we can right now.
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MANNO: The Florida Panthers are working with the Salvation Army and Major League Soccer's inner Miami made a $10,000 donation and also held a moment of silence before their game on Friday for the victims of this tragedy. All of these pro sports teams too, Boris, are trying to use their social platforms to push fans towards various websites if they want to help, get involved in the relief associated with this tragedy.
SANCHEZ: So important to lend a helping hand if you can. Carolyn Manno, thank you so much.