Latin Americans among those falling apart, parents abroad waiting for the word

SURFSIDE, Fla – Ruby Romero Isaev is still in shock after seeing the collapsed remains of the Miami Beach condominium where she lived four years ago. Thursday morning’s disaster killed at least four people, leaving 159 missing and 11 injured.

“The Surfside community is small,” said Romero Isaev, 63, who now lives in a building adjacent to the one that collapsed. “We all know each other and we meet at the beach, at the park and at the market. We all cried.

As the frantic search and rescue efforts continued through Friday, Romero Isaev said she and others were working to help those who escaped.

Maria Fernanda Martinez, left, and Mariana Corderiro, right, of Boca Raton, Fla., Stand outside a 12-story oceanfront condominium building that partially collapsed in Miami’s Surfside neighborhood on Friday.Lynne Sladky / AP

The small, multicultural town of Surfside, with a population of around 6,000, has seen a growth in its South American residents over the years. Some came to the United States when their home countries were rocked by crises – from Argentina’s economic depression in the late 1990s and early 2000s to the political turmoil in Venezuela. More recently, some have arrived in Florida following the raging Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to devastate South American countries like Brazil.

Romero Isaev arrived in the United States from Venezuela in 1997.

Jose Manuel Pupo Cabrera, 48, moved to Surfside from Cuba and started work two years ago performing maintenance on the building next to the collapsed tower. He was called to work at 4 a.m. on Friday, he said, as he rushed to get there in heavy traffic and gathered onlookers.

Pupo Cabrera said he knew many people who lived in the building because of his job.

“It was terrible. It’s a horrible feeling that I continue to have,” he said. “I am very sad. Una locura [a craziness]. “

The Argentine consulate in Miami said in a press release on Thursday that nine of those missing are Argentines.

The sister of the Paraguayan first lady Silvana López Moreira and her family, as well as a worker, were also missing on Friday.

Paraguay’s Foreign Ministry said six Paraguayans were among those still not located.

As rescuers continued the dangerous task of digging through the rubble, a constant hum of helicopters could be heard overhead. The air was hazy and smelled of smoke.

The spectators tried to approach the stage, take photos and record videos.

Esteban Saavedra, 54, a restaurant worker who came from Chile four years ago, lives a few blocks from the collapsed building. He said he lost power the night the building collapsed, but only realized the cause in the morning.

He said he was “saddened for the deceased as there are large buildings under construction in the area”.

The nephew of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Claudio Bonnefoy, was among the missing, according to NBC Miami.

Dozens of victims are from Colombia, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay, Telemundo reported.

the The Miami Herald reported that some also came from Cuba, Chile and Puerto Rico. In addition, the Israeli government has said that around 20 of its citizens have not been located, Telemundo reported.

The proximity of the disaster left Romero Isaev filled with a mixture of relief, fear and questions.

“I can’t stop thinking about everything that happened, everything that could have happened and why it wasn’t me,” she said.

To cope with her trauma, Romero Isaev raised donations to the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida, which she owns with her husband.

Luz Marina holds a photo of her aunt, Marina Azen, who she says is missing after the partial collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo tower she was in on Thursday in Surfside, Florida.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Her condominium fills with donated water, blankets, snacks, reading glasses and clothing. All items are taken to a nearby synagogue, The Shul in the town of Bal Harbor.

President Joe Biden has declared a national disaster and deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Surfside to manage the response.

Because some of the victims or those missing have families in other countries, the administration and lawmakers face the task of creating a route for people from Latin America to come to the United States during a pandemic. .

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Tweeted: “We continue to get emergency visas approved for people from more than a dozen countries who have loved ones among the missing in Surfside,” and added that some had already arrived. The office of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose district includes Surfside, said the MP was working with the State Department to secure visas.

The State Department has said visa records are confidential and cannot discuss individual visa cases. “Our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic partial collapse of a building near Miami, Florida,” the statement added.

The tragedy also creates a complex situation for Venezuelans whose family members have been killed or are missing due to the collapse. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, which complicates visits.

Laura Ortiz, spokeswoman for Rubio, said there had been numerous calls with requests for emergency visas.

The current pandemic adds to the difficulty. The United States would screen travelers before they enter, she said.

Aida Merino, 63, lives in Surfside not far from where the building collapsed.

“It’s so tragic. I’m very scared, “Merino said.” I hope all buildings that are near the beach are checked to make sure they are up to code. “

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