Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Rescue Crews Battling Fire As Search For Survivors Continues; Surfside Mayor Recommends Residents In Chaplain North Tower Be Evacuated; Four Killed In Hot Air Balloon Accident In New Mexico; Families Demand Answers On What Caused Condo Collapse; Engineer Warned Of "Major Structural Damage" At Florida Condo Complex In 2018; Nevada Elementary School Identifies Delta Variant Cluster; Dangerous Delta Variant Could Induces More Americans To Get Vaccinated. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired June 26, 2021 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00]

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Florida Panthers are working with the Salvation Army, and Major League soccer's Inter Miami made a $10,000 donation and also held a moment of silence before their game on Friday for the victims of this tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANNO (on camera): All of these pro sports teams two boards are trying to use their social platforms to push fans towards various web sites if they want to help get involved in the relief associated with this tragedy.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST (on camera): So important to lend a helping hand if you can. Carolyn Manno, thank you so much.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST (on camera): -- again every -- hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Boris Sanchez, live in Surfside, Florida, not far from the site of Thursday's condo collapse.

WHITFIELD: Boris, I know right now it's all hands on deck. It is a dangerous difficult search and rescue operation in Surfside, Florida. Boris.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): No question, Fred. And every moment is precious in a race against the clock. More than 60 hours now since this collapse took place, and rescue teams are still battling fires which have greatly complicated the effort to find survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MAYOR OF 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. SANCHEZ: There are also new concerns today about the condo's sister building, nearly identical building, located just a block away from the collapse. Officials are saying that, that building should be evacuated until a structural investigation can be done.

CHARLES BURKETT, MAYOR OF SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: Has the same name. It had the same developer, it probably had the same materials. They probably had the same plans. And, you know, people are asking me, is the building safe? And I can't tell them it is safe. I can't tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: One of the big questions that is still outstanding is how this could happen? We're getting some details today about exactly what may have been happening in the pool deck of this building.

A structural field survey of the condo was done back in 2018, and it warned of cracking in certain columns. An engineer writing that major repairs were going to be needed. Repairs, which were just about to begin before the unthinkable happened.

We have a full team on the ground as that search for survivors continues.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Let's head straight to CNN's Rosa Flores. She is at the scene of the condo collapse. Give us an update Rosa, what is the latest from officials on where the effort stands right now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, the focus right now really is on that smoldering fire that you were talking about. That's what fire officials say is the biggest concern.

There have been multiple concerns since this incident happened on Thursday early morning.

FLORES (voice-over): Those include high winds, those include rain, which puts pressure and more weight on the structure.

But right now, the biggest concern is this smoldering fire that -- excuse me, according to the fire chief, it is so deep within this structure that they can't get to it. They're trying to get there.

They've built a trench, according to the officials, to get to this area. But they don't even know what is smoldering. And so, that really complicates the situation and really complicates the search throughout that process.

FLORES (on camera): While they were building this trench, fire officials do say that they were looking for signs of life. They, of course, are using dogs, sonar, cameras. Using those cameras to go through crevices and fissures to see if they have any signs or views of life. According to the fire officials that we spoke to, they have not heard sounds of life. They have not heard banging today.

Yesterday, during one of the press conferences. The fire chief did mention that there were some sounds that they could hear. That change today. But this search continues, these men and women continue to risk their lives to make sure that everything is done to try to find the individuals -- the 159 individuals that are unaccounted for.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County saying that hope is still here in Surfside. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAVA: Our top priority now continues to be search and rescue. We continue to have hope, we are continuing to search. We're looking for people alive in the rubble. That is our priority and our teams have not stopped.

Hour after hour through the night they have been working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Now, all this as we learn more about the history of this building through a structural survey report that was issued in October of 2018.

FLORES (voice-over): The words that are used in this report are really scathing and difficult to even read as you're -- as you're looking, as we were looking at this report. Words like systemic issues, major structural damage, issues with the rebar that was listed in this report.

[13:05:18]

FLORES: Now, to give you a better idea and a better sense, I want to read a few of these excerpts for you. And I'm going to quote here from the report. It says, "waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive as well as all of the planter waterproofing is beyond its useful life and therefore must," I'm going to repeat that. "Must all be completely removed and replaced."

It goes on to say, "Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."

This report explains that one of the major issues is in the entrance drive pull deck planter waterproofing. It says that it was laid flat, Boris. But that needs to be slanted to allow for the water to drain.

If the water can't drain, of course, the water floods there. That was one of the major issues that was listed in that report. Finally, leave you with this, it calls it a systemic issue for this building structure.

FLORES (on camera): And the concern, of course, Boris, when you and I've been talking about this today is that other building, the sister building, and the mayor telling you he can't tell residents that it is safe. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, Rosa, we're going to, of course, keep an eye on the ultimate decision about whether to evacuate those folks or not. And the mayor of Miami Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, saying that there will be accountability if they determine that there was negligence, If they figure out that this could have been prevented, assuring the community that there will be accountability.

Rosa Flores, thanks so much for that report.

Before we get to accountability, we have to pivot and recognize the agony that so many families are dealing with right now.

Nick Valencia joins us now, not far from where we are here in Surfside, talking to people that are just waiting to hear confirmation about what happened to their loved ones. If they might indeed be able to make it out of this disaster. Nick, what have you been hearing?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, Boris, we've been talking about it all morning. It's been agonizing for these families and the friends of those who are still unaccounted for. They are growing desperate with every hour that passes, and no new information has been released by the local officials.

One of those is Abigail Pereira who has two friends and their 6-year- old daughter who she says is among the missing. She believes that they're still alive, but she is even losing hope, as hopeful as she was yesterday. That's just not where she was at today, declining an interview because she's just too emotional from what she's been through over the course of the last 48 hours or so.

But she did want to share this video, which is a video that she took on her cell phone of the briefing between Governor Ron DeSantis and those family and friends inside at the reunification center behind me.

And that briefing happening just about two hours or so ago. And it was as you're about to hear, very much so contentious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a mother. I don't know the best way to go without this. But it's impossible that in four days, nobody has emerged that are alive. Please don't tell me about the two people, I know about it. It's not enough.

Imagine if your children were in there, you're going to leave here, and you're going to take a nice picture. And I know you're doing everything you can, but it's not enough. You gave us a promise and you're not fulfilling it, and you can fulfill it.

Red tape is not important when my daughter is dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: You could hear the fear in that mother's voice about the fate of her daughter. You know one of those that is unaccounted for, we believe right now.

It's just a few minutes after that, this briefing happened in about 30 minutes, you know, over the course of about 30 minutes.

And just after that woman spoke, there was somebody from the family and friends, the group that stood up and tried to calm people down, saying that this is not an us versus them situation, that it really is the first responders who are doing everything they can within their power, but it is just a very precarious and painstakingly slow process.

Still, though, it's very clear, Boris that this is a desperate situation here for those that are waiting for answers and still have nothing new to go on. Boris.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Yes, desperate is the right word, especially, I'm not sure if you're seeing the images that we're showing right now, Nick. But I can't imagine being a family member to someone that might have been trapped under what we're seeing. 11 floors, flattened and rescue crews now working that scene.

Nick Valencia, thank you so much for that report.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Let's take you into the process of sifting through that debris field.

[13:10:02]

SANCHEZ: With us now is Joe Hernandez. He's a CNN contributor and a former member of FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue team that is on the scene here searching for survivors.

Joe, you actually have a personal connection to the rescue team that is on the ground right now. You were the chief of medical operations for one of those task forces that is working 12-hour shifts.

Help us understand what it's like to be on one of these scenes because we can show the pictures, but for folks at home, there is texture that is missing from those pictures, there is pain, I imagine in these people that are doing this very difficult work.

(CROSSTALK)

JOE HERNANDEZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. Sure. Absolutely.

These are responders that were running into that site when people were running away from that. So, their first intent is to try to do everything that they can as long as it takes to try and help all of those that are still possibly entrapped within that structure.

They're methodically going into that area, bit by bit in areas that they can seek access. We know that the fires have hampered that. We know that the water has hampered that as well but they found areas that they were able to go into, were able to lift pieces of concrete up, they're able to crib that, and they're able to put search cameras in there, and try to get some hearing backs, some visuals back, and use the canine as well to see if we can get any more feedback from any of the possible entrapped victims that are in there. SANCHEZ: Joe, we should let our viewers know you actually teach this practice. I'll get into the equipment and the actual process. But I do want to ask about this fire.

HERNANDEZ: Sure.

SANCHEZ: Officials have acknowledged they don't know the source of this fire.

HERNANDEZ: Correct?

SANCHEZ: What kind of challenge does that represent for the people who are in the midst of it?

HERNANDEZ: It always presents a challenge. The good thing is right now, the smoke is a little bit lighter than air. So, it tends to be drifting towards the top. And the rescue crews have been able to use a trench to be able to gain access into the side of the pile that doesn't have that smoke effect.

Of course, it's always a concern, because it could have been one of the vehicles underneath in the parking garage, anything gets underneath that kitchen sink, bed mattresses, so, all the carcinogenic that are there.

So, they're methodically going into and almost remind us as the rescuers that we're going into the Pentagon because of the active fires that were going on there as well.

SANCHEZ: So, the experience that you have, is 30 years. The Twin Towers, Haiti, Katrina --

HERNANDEZ: Yes.

SANCHEZ: You listed all of them as we were just off-camera.

HERNANDEZ: Sure.

SANCHEZ: Personally, for you, what is it like to process a scene like that? Because it requires intense focus to know you're putting your life on the line trying to save lives.

(CROSSTALK)

HERNANDEZ (voice-over): Sure. Probably you're made that way to start with takes an incredible significant other. I do have one of those for 42 years. That strength, also of those brothers and sisters that are within the department themselves. And learning how to be able to discuss those things and bring those issues up as soon as they start to invade your mind. Even inside that pile, they start to invade your mind.

SANCHEZ: Yes. So, let's walk through some of this technology. Helped me understand that -- so, this is a camera that is likely being deployed to be used right now. How does this help them get to a survivor? HERNANDEZ (on camera): So they'll open a hole about three inches in diameter. They'll be able to stick a camera inside there, which is also a listening device. It does visual and voice recognition.

SANCHEZ: Wow.

HERNANDEZ: The big thing is, is that there's -- this is a new technology. We were always stuck with an articulating head on a camera. And someone came up with a 360 degree, where you're able to use a Wi-Fi system.

So, multiple people can be looking at the image. Something that you might see might be something that, that camera operator isn't seeing at the present time.

It's waterproof, soundproof. So, they can use a stick to put it up underneath that rubble pile. They can drop it on a rope using a carabiner. And so, one way or another, they're going to get to communicate with that victim.

Once they communicate with that victim, they can begin to medically assess that victim and do a limited patient assessment.

SANCHEZ: So, for our viewers at home, we actually have a shot of that camera, and we can show you what it -- what it sort of looks like to be on the receiving end on an iPad or some kind of tablet that, that shows you that.

I'm curious when you do find --

HERNANDEZ: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Actually, let's take a step back.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: What is it like being in that area for that moment of silence when someone thinks perhaps that they heard something?

HERNANDEZ: Yes. It's a -- it's an incredible sigh of relief that at least there's a patient there. The drive to get them out it may take 15 minutes, it may take five hours. But we know we have someone and we have someone alive.

Now, we can maybe even get accountability if there's anyone else around there if they've heard anyone else during the last few hours or days.

SANCHEZ: And then, what is the process like when someone is found? You were telling me before we went on camera that there is an immense difference in the likelihood of survivability of an event like this if they're treated on the scene instead of being taken out.

(CROSSTALK)

HERNANDEZ: OK, sure. Absolutely. So, all of the teams carry two physicians and several paramedics that are trained specifically for entering that confined space and those concrete. They're members of those teams.

[13:15:08]

HERNANDEZ: And they're there to do medicine. They're there to treat the patients for any of their problems that were existed during that crush.

Rhabdomyolysis, some of the different toxins that are created in the body once you're unable to move or entrapped.

Survivability increases up to 85 percent if a patient is aggressively treated -- medically treated in that rubble prior to extrication. And so, the golden hour becomes the golden day, and the medical practitioners, also the rescuers and extractors know that we're going to stay here and try and bring those patients back to a pre-entrapped medical status. How were they before this all happened? That's our goal.

SANCHEZ: Joe, I want to leave on a note of hope.

HERNANDEZ: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Because it's so important for the families of those that are unaccounted for to sense that as we're seeing now, every possible technology, every possible effort is being made to find their loved ones.

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: You've been in so many situations like this. What would you say to the families of loved ones that are watching? I mean, that calamity that we have on camera right now, what would you say to families who are concerned about people they love being --

(CROSSTALK)

HERNANDEZ: Don't lose hope. Days into the Haiti earthquake, people were still found alive. It was a pancake type of establishment, something similar to this.

So, never lose hope as long as there's rescuers willing to get in there and try and find those victims. And we're still in the first few days of this operation. There's still hope. Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Joe, I'm in awe of the work that you do.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We appreciate your sharing it --

(CROSSTALK)

HENANDEZ: Thank you, Boris. And you have a wonderful day. And thank you, sir. SANCHEZ: Of course. Thank you.

Still, obviously, a fluid situation out here.

Coming up, at least, 159 people remain missing after the condo collapsed, including a 65-year-old beloved grandmother. We spoke with her kids a short time ago. You'll hear the story of Judy Spiegel when we come back from a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:20:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGIO LOZANO, PARENTS MISSING IN CONDO COLLAPSE: I Look over, it fell apart. There is no building.

My wife was walking behind me because she was going to help me bring in the patio furniture. And I tell her, Lola (PH), the building, stop there. She's yelling, saying, what do you mean?

My parent's apartments not there. It's gone. And I just ran downstairs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, you can hear it in that man's voice and in the voices of so many others. They're in Surfside, Florida right now. People are still processing the unthinkable, hoping against hope that their loved ones just might be alive under all of that rubble.

And Boris, you had such a powerful interview earlier with two siblings who don't know if they're going to ever see their mother again. What do they say? How are they holding out hope as well?

SANCHEZ: It's extremely difficult, Fred. Especially as we see some of the images of the process of rescue and rescue workers standing atop this enormous pile, 11 floors of what used to be homes. And spaces where people build memories and carried out their lives.

That family, the Spiegel family is suffering. They're in agony because they don't have any confirmation. They're frustrated. They want answers. And yet they also recognize that this is a painfully slow and difficult, deliberate process.

It was hard for me to not get emotional talking to them. Here is some of what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL SPIEGEL, MOTHER, JUDY SPIEGEL, IS MISSING: My mom is just the best person in the world. She is so caring and loving. She like -- loves my kids, and you know that like, obviously, I'm dealing with my own stuff. But I also have to worry about my daughter. I have two daughters, but one is too little to really know and understand. The picture that you just saw with Scarlett with my mom. But, you know, my daughter keeps asking. You know, we told her last night that my mom is missing, and we can't find her. And she told me that, well, she's really good at playing hide and seek. So, she's probably hiding in her house. Can I go there with you? I know where she hides.

And I said, we have a lot of people helping, we told you that I've been on the news. We're doing everything that we can, but my husband told me that, you know -- she asked again today, you know, have they found grandma? Has mommy found grandma?

JOSH SPIEGEL, MOTHER, JUDY SPIEGEL, IS MISSING: I'm scared to death. I just want my mom back.

R. SPIEGEL: I know.

J. SPIEGEL: And we're praying as much as possible. We just want more people to help. So, if there's anyone else that can help, that's all that we want. We love my mom, she's the most amazing person in the world. And we would literally do anything because we know that she would do anything for us.

R. SPIEGEL: My dad was in town for Father's Day, and Josh's birthday was Father's Day. We were all celebrating and happy, and you know, my dad left Monday morning. And you know, they were supposed to go to New York, they have this trip coming up. You know, it's days away. Like, you know, I don't really understand it, like, my heart breaks for my dad.

But at the same time, I'm just so thankful that he wasn't there too because, you know, obviously the thought of losing my mom was my rock and my best friends and everything is the most awful thing. But I don't really know if I would be standing if I lost two.

[13:25:00]

R. SPIEGEL: It breaks my heart if something could have been prevented, and I'm just killing myself that I didn't say on Wednesday night, mom, sleep over my house.

SANCHEZ: How would you have known?

R. SPIEGEL: Obviously, I didn't know. But if I could go back in time --

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Of course.

R. SPIEGEL: And I was on the phone with my mom Wednesday night, and she often sleeps in my house. I just don't know why on that -- she was coming to my house Thursday, because I usually have ballet at my house with the kids. It breaks my heart. SANCHEZ: Rachel and Josh, we pray for you. And our hearts go out to you, to your kids to your dad. If there's anything that we can do to help facilitate this process in any way, please let us know. We're going to keep trying to get you answers and keep up --

(CROSSTALK)

R. SPIEGEL: Keep saying my mom's name. Keep believing, keep praying. You know, that's what we're doing.

SANCHEZ: Judy Spiegel.

R. SPIEGEL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Rachel and Josh. We appreciate.

J. SPIEGEL: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Fred, that, that detail from Rachel about her daughter saying that her grandmother is very good at hide and seek, and that she wanted to come down here, and look for her, it's just crushing. And it's a child's way of trying to be proactive in this situation.

And it's something that's echoed in the adults that we've been speaking to the families. The people that I have heard say that they want to come down here that they would try to get permission from rescue officials to come here with their own buckets, to try to dig up some of this rubble to get to their loved ones and to get answers about how their loved ones might be doing.

It's crushing, and yet there is hope.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: How people feel so hopeful -- hopeless.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Yes. There is still hope though, Fred, that answers will come soon. And that hopefully we'll witness a miracle.

WHITFIELD: All right. They want to remain hopeful even though people feel so helpless. And of course, all the -- you know, teams of rescue teams, you know, are working around the clock. But even they have to manage the number of people who were trying to help because it's such a volatile setting there with that pile of debris.

Boris, thank you so much.

And we're also following other news, this "BREAKING NEWS". In New Mexico, four people dead in a hot air balloon crash. We have new information on what went wrong, straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:31:46]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

We are monitoring the desperate search-and-rescue efforts in Surfside, Florida. Officials say a fire burning under the rubble is a major concern as rescuers search for survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D-MIAMI-DADE COUNTY): We are facing very incredible difficulties with the fire. The fire has been going on for a while. It is a very deep fire. It is extremely difficult to locate the source of the fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: It has been two days since the condominium building partially collapsed. CNN learned a structural field survey completed in 2018 warned of structural damage and that the building needed major repairs.

Search teams are sifting through the rubble, trying to find 159 people unaccounted for. At least four people died in the collapse.

We'll stay on top of the story, bring you any updates as soon as they are available.

We also have breaking news out of New Mexico, where four people are dead following a hot air balloon crash. You're looking at live pictures where the balloon went down. You see part of it under the trees there.

CNN's Alison Kosik joining me live with more.

Alison, what happened?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, this accident involved five people. Four are dead. One was transported to the hospital and is listed in critical and unstable condition.

Here is what Albuquerque Police Department spokesman tells us. He says it happened this morning at 7:00 a.m. local time in Albuquerque. The hot air balloon crashed into power lines near the intersection of Central Avenue and Unser Boulevard.

The balloon hit the top wires and the gondola skirting some of those top wires, catching fire, separating from the balloon. The basket falling to the ground in the intersection.

By the time police and fire officials got to the scene, four people were dead. One was transported to the hospital.

Victims range from 40 to 60 years old. One of the deceased involves the pilot.

It caused a power outage that affected 13,000 customers. Power has since been restored.

These pictures are incredible. You see the balloon rested on top of a house nearby the intersection where the basket went down.

Albuquerque's Police Department spokesman telling us these things are horrible anytime they happen -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Alison Kosik, thank you so much for that.

[13:34:17]

All right, coming up, crews searching for survivors in Florida. Investigators searching for answers as well. What we're learning about the condo building that collapsed, including a study that found it had been sinking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Beyond questions of the state of loved ones, family members have serious questions about what officials knew about the state of the collapsed condo in Surfside, Florida. Chief among them, whether this could have been prevented.

CNN's Brian Todd has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): structural engineers and other experts scrambling to find answers as to how this collapse could have occurred, in an area with some of the strictest building codes in the world.

PROF. SHIMON WDOWINSKI, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: It's very unusual to see a building collapse like in this way. It reminds me of building in countries where they have the earthquakes and constructions. It's not in good conditions.

TODD: Professor Shimon Wdowinski, of a Florida International University, released a study last year which said 40-year- old building, the tower south, had been sinking or subsiding, as he calls it, at a rate of about two millimeter as year between 1993 and 1999.

WDOWINSKI: It's not clear if the land was moving or the building was moving into the land. But it was -- obviously, the building itself moved, a very small portion, which is about over the measurement period of six years, is about half an inch.

[13:40:06]

TODD: Wdowinski said that sinking didn't occur in buildings around that complex.

He said the sinking alone likely would not have caused the building to collapse.

But experts say it could be associated with tension and possible cracks inside the structure.

Local officials say there was roof work being done on the building. They are careful to say that may not be the cause of this disaster but experts say it could have been a contributing factor.

KOBI KARP, ARCHITECH: Collusion effects of potentially working on the roof, potentially the non-maintenance of certain parts of the building where the connections could come together and fail and create a pancake effect that happened.

TODD: The location and climate of that area, experts say, also have to be considered.

KIT MIYAMOTO, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Especially the corrosion of the steel. As you noticed, it's right next to the ocean, and the area collapse is the ocean side, right? That's what the corrosion is.

So corrosion of the reinforcement will compromise the capacity of column. If the column fails, everything fails essentially.

TODD: An attorney for the Condo Residence Association says, over the past several months, the building had undergone what he called thorough engineering inspections in preparation for its 40-year certification.

KENNETH DIREKTOR, ATTORNEY FOR CONDO ASSOCIATION: Nothing appeared either to the engineers or to any of the residents that would suggest anything like this was imminent. Nothing.

TODD: Experts say it make take several months before we know the real causes.

And as for the possibility of one smoking gun --

ATOROD AZIZINAMINI, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING: Usually, a collapse like this doesn't happen just because of one factor. Usually, it's several factors combined and like a perfect storm.

TODD (on camera): And we've just learned a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, accusing that group of, quote, "failures to secure and safeguard the lives and property of condo unit owners."

That suit, which seeks in excess of $5 million in damages, cites a statement from the Condo Association's attorney, Kenneth Direktor, saying that repair needs had been identified but had not completed.

In response to the suit, Direktor said he doesn't know and engineers don't know with certainty what caused the building to come down.

So, quote, "How is it that this lawyer knows with certainty what caused that building to fall down?"

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Brian, thank you so much.

Part of what we've been hearing from officials over and over again, Fred, as they put out a message to the public, and specifically to families of those missing, is a plea for patience.

It takes many forms. Not just patience about figuring out the condition of loved ones but figuring out accountability, whether this could have been prevented.

As we keep hearing from experts, it may be quite some time before we find out a cause or causes of the collapse.

WHITFIELD: Further burden on the pain so many are feeling.

Thank you so much, Boris. We'll check back with you.

Our coverage from Surfside, Florida, continues in a moment.

Also ahead, new concerns about the Delta variant of COVID in children. Several cases reported at a school in Reno, Nevada.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:47:49]

WHITFIELD: All right, a school in Nevada is facing a very serious COVID situation. Hunsberger Elementary, in Reno, found nine cases of the coronavirus, four of which were identified as the Delta variant, first discovered in India.

According to the CDC, the Delta variant is very contagious and is disproportionately affecting younger people.

Joining us now, Dr. Jayne Morgan, the executive director of the Piedmont Healthcare COVID Task Force in Georgia.

Dr. Morgan, so good to see you.

This is pretty scary, particularly for parents, when children under the age of 12 can't get a COVID vaccine now.

How concerned should we all be about the Delta variant, particularly as we start thinking about school in the fall.

DR. JAYNE MORGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PIEDMONT HEALTHCARE COVID TASK FORCE: Thank you, Fredricka, for having me today.

One of the things we have to understand is that mutations will continue to happen if we can't get vaccination and immunity status up to herd immunity. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

The Delta variant and mutation is the latest mutation that will occur. Others will continue to come.

Certainly, our children represent that pocket of our society that currently is unable to be vaccinated.

So it is dependent on the rest of us to step up and get vaccinated such that we can protect all of those unable to be vaccinated currently.

WHITFIELD: President Biden talked about the Delta variant this week. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is more easily transmittable, the Delta variant, potentially deadlier, and dangerous for young people, for young people. He says the greatest threat to our fight to beat COVID-19.

But the good news is we have a solution. The science is clear. The best way to protect yourself against the virus and these variants is to be fully vaccinated.

It works. It is free. It is safe. It is easy. It is convenient.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:50:00]

WHITFIELD: Dr. Morgan, the president wants Americans, 70 percent of Americans to be fully vaccinated by July 4th. Of course, still unclear whether the goal will be met.

But hearing more about this Delta variant, do you expect that might be greater impetus for people to get vaccinated?

MORGAN: I certainly hope so.

Make no mistake. At this point, every death from COVID because of our vaccines is preventable.

Just think about that. Every single death is preventable. But that window will close as more and more mutations develop.

This particular variant is quite fit. It is -- has the ability to be more evasive, more adaptable, more transmissible, cause more serious disease, perhaps even bind to the lung receptors a little bit more strongly.

And we have to consider that these mutations will continue to evolve, continue to develop, because that's what viruses do. It's quite a formidable foe. And so, we have the tools to step up and fight this foe. And we must

consider vaccinations very, very strongly because a Delta variant is just the latest mutation that will continue to develop and occur.

WHITFIELD: Right. And there could be more after that, especially as there's a resistance among many to get vaccinated.

So, in Nevada, when we talk about where this school is located -- I believe it's pronounced Washoe County -- they say they have found 17 total cases of the Delta variant at workplaces.

The only people hospitalized were not vaccinated. And we know that over one in 10 people in the U.S. has not gotten their second dose of the vaccine.

So, how do you -- what kind of plea do you make to people right now to encourage them?

MORGAN: So, when we think about the development of these mutations, we have to think about herd immunity and not community immunity.

We cannot continue to have pockets of unvaccinated counties and areas in this country.

Those pockets create a place for mutations to continue to develop. And then those mutations have the ability to continue to learn, to become smarter, and eventually evade the immunization status of the rest of us.

And then we start all over again. The entire country is back at square one.

Eventually, the vaccine companies will have to go back and not develop a booster shot but develop a complete reformulation of the vaccine to combat all of the mutations that have developed.

So, community immunity is not the goal. We cannot have pockets of immunity and pockets of low vaccination status because it puts all of us at risk.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Jayne Morgan, thank you so much. Appreciate. Good to see you.

MORGAN: Thank you, Frederica.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, a long-awaited report from the Pentagon about whether we are alone in the universe or not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:57:53]

WHITFIELD: All right, if you're looking for definitive proof from the government that we are not alone in the universe, it's not in this U.S. intel report released yesterday. After examining 144 reports of these, quote, "unidentified aerial

phenomenon," investigators found no evidence that these sightings were either signs of extraterrestrial life or major technological advances from a foreign adversary.

But they didn't rule it out either. Quoting now, "We will go wherever the data takes us," said a senior U.S. official.

Sex, power, feminism, she wrote the book on it but this is the only story she never told. "LADY BOSS: THE JACKIE COLLINS STORY" premiers tomorrow right at 9:00, right here on CNN.

Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKIE COLLINS, AUTHOR: Hi. I'm Jackie Collins. I write novels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She put female sexuality at the center of the world, and people lost their minds.

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was very shy and never really knew what she was writing but she was always scribbling away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wrote about strength and strong women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jackie was the first author to write about women who behaved like men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She broke ground for all of us woman.

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we very quickly made her very controversial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God forbid a woman should be writing about sex.

COLLINS: I'm not claiming to be a literal genius. I'm claiming to be a terrific storyteller.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a little taste, Jackie.

COLLINS: Of the wine?

(LAUGHTER)

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls can do anything.

Girls can do anything.

That was her motto.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the boss.

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 females."

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Frederica Whitfield in Atlanta.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Boris Sanchez, live from Surfside, Florida.

WHITFIELD: Right now, Boris, there's a very dangerous and difficult search-and-rescue operation under way right there where you are, Surfside, Florida.

[14:00:05]

SANCHEZ: Yes, that's right, Fred, and the search and rescue is becoming more and more complex.