Distraught friends and family are ‘praying for a miracle’ as at least 159 people are still missing after a 12-story apartment block collapsed in Miami in a disaster feared to have killed scores of sleeping residents.
Among the missing is the first cousin of the former president of Chile and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Pascale Bonnefoy told CNN she had not heard from her father Claudio Bonnefoy since the Champlain Towers South collapsed without warning in the early hours of Thursday morning.
He lived with his wife Maria Bonnefoy in the part of the condo building that has been reduced to rubble, she said.
The couple are among at least 31 Latin American citizens known to be missing including nine Argentinians, six people each from Paraguay, Columbia and Venezuela and three from Uruguay – a number that could climb as the search continues.
Sources close to the investigation told DailyMail.com most people in the building were tourists from Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia and had traveled to the US to get COVID-19 vaccines because they are difficult to get in their respective countries.
Many are thought to have been renting the condos as Airbnbs, making it difficult for officials to identify who could be trapped beneath the rubble of the oceanfront complex.
Paraguay’s First Lady Silvana López Moreira arrived into Florida Thursday as her sister and sister’s family remained missing more than 24 hours on from the disaster.
Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill, and their three young children were reported to be among the missing Thursday.
Sophia López Moreira, her husband Luis Pettengill and their three young children are among those unaccounted for in Miami after the 12-story apartment building collapsed overnight. Moreira is the sister of President Mario Abdo Benítez’s wife Silvana
Cassandra Stratton (left). Her husband said she was staying in the building and he was speaking on the phone to her at the time it collapsed. She told him the ‘building was shaking’ and, moments later, the line went dead he said. Cassandra had posted a photo of herself on Instagram just hours before (right)
Moreira is the sister-in-law of Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benítez. The family were said to have been celebrating Luis’s birthday just hours before the tragedy after they had traveled to the US to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Meanwhile, one concerned husband told Fox21 he was speaking on the phone to his wife who was staying in the building at the time it collapsed.
Michael Stratton, from Denver, said his wife Cassandra Stratton told him the ‘building was shaking’ and, moments later, the line went dead. He has not heard from her since.
‘She described that the building was shaking and then… the phone went dead,’ he said.
Stratton said flew out to Miami as he awaited news about his wife who had been staying in a condo in the building during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cassandra had posted a photo of herself on Instagram just hours before the disaster, posing on a chair in a building in Miami Beach.
Bhavna Patel, a 38-year-old British and US citizen, her husband Vishal Patel, 42, and their one-year-old daughter Aishani, have also not been seen since the building’s collapse, a relative told Sky News. Bhavna had been expecting another baby.
Their devastated friend Vishal Abash described Bhavna ‘as an angel, a sweet kind loving woman… very loving, very unconditional love, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone since the day I met her.’
He described the couple, who were best man and maid of honor at his wedding, as heaven-sent, adding that ‘now maybe God has come to reclaim his angels.’
A woman who said creaking noises woke her up the night before the building collapsed, is also unaccounted for, according to her son Pablo Rodriguez.
Both his mother and grandmother were in the section of 55 condos that collapsed at Champlain Towers at 1.30am on Thursday.
He told CNN: ‘We are praying for a miracle, but at the same time trying to be as realistic about it as possible.’
Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor when the building gave way. Their son, Jonathan, who lives in New York City said he hasn’t been able to contact them.
‘I’m trying to be a little optimistic, but I just don’t see it,’ he told WJXT. ‘It just doesn’t seem real, you know? Why this building? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. I’m struggling to make sense of it.’
Bhavna Patel, a 38-year-old British and US citizen, her husband Vishal Patel, 42, and their one-year-old daughter Aishani remain unaccounted for. Her devastated family said that Ms Patel is ‘an angel.’ The mother is also expecting another child.
Bonnie and David Epstein were on the ninth floor when the building gave way at 1.30am on Thursday. Their son, Jonathan, who lives in New York City said he hasn’t been able to contact them. ‘I’m trying to be a little optimistic, but I just don’t see it,’ he told WJXT . ‘It just doesn’t seem real, you know? Why this building? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. I’m struggling to make sense of it’
The University of Chicago chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish movement said one of its members Ilan Naibryf and his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin (pictured) were still missing. Writing on Instagram, the group said: ‘Please pray for Ilan Ben Ronit and Deborah Bat Talia Chaya. They are dear friends, gems whom we love dearly. Ilan is a student at UChicago and the President of our Chabad Student Board. They are both family.’
Frankie Kleiman and his wife Annie Ortiz (left), along with Annie’s son Luis, are believed to have been inside the building when it collapsed. Frankie’s brother Jay (right) was visiting for a funeral. Frankie lives on the same floor as their mother Nancy
Luis Andres Bermudez, 26, who has muscular dystrophy, is missing along with his mother Annie Ortiz, wife of Frankie Kleiman who was also inside the building
Jay and Frankie Kleiman were believed to have been inside the building with their mother Nancy Kress Levin (pictured) when it collapsed
Edgar Gonzalez (left), who lived on the ninth floor with his family, is still unaccounted, his relatives told NBC. Dr Brad Cohen (right), who is an orthopedic surgeon at a local hospital, hadn’t been heard from since 3am. His wife, Soriya Cohen, said he lived on the 10th floor
Among the missing are orthopedic surgeon Brad Cohen and his brother Gary (Gary is pictured). Brad’s wife Soriya Cohen spoke to reporters and showed pictures of her loved ones on her phone while waiting at the Family Assistance Center set up for relatives.
Soriya Cohen holds up a picture of her husband, Brad
The synagogue at Bal Harbour, about eight blocks from Champlain Towers, has opened it doors to help those affected with food supplies and other donations. Around a dozen members of the synagogue are unaccounted for.
Chani Lipskar, the wife of the rabbi, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that thousands around the world were praying for not just the missing Jews, but everyone else impacted by the tragedy.
Families have started sharing images of their missing relatives online as firefighters continue trawling through the wreckage. Many of their photos have been compiled by CBS4 reporter Frances Wang.
Carlos Pou, who lives in Baco Raton, told The Miami Herald he knew at least six people who were living at or visiting the building at the time of the collapse.
He identified brothers Jay and Frankie Kleiman, their mother Nancy Kress Levin, and Frankie’s wife Annie Ortiz and her son Luis Bermúdez.
Frankie lived on the same floor as his mother Nancy and his brother Jay had been visiting for a funeral, Pou said. He said he’d left several voicemails but had not been able to get hold of the Kleimans.
A friend of the family told the Herald: ‘They are young people with kids. Frankie’s daughter is pregnant.’
The University of Chicago chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish movement said one of its members Ilan Naibryf and his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin had also been inside the building.
Writing on Instagram, the group said: ‘Please pray for Ilan Ben Ronit and Deborah Bat Talia Chaya. They are dear friends, gems whom we love dearly. Ilan is a student at UChicago and the President of our Chabad Student Board. They are both family.’
Also unaccounted for are orthopedic surgeon Brad Cohen and his brother Gary. Brad’s wife Soriya Cohen spoke to reporters and showed pictures of her loved ones on her phone while waiting at the Family Assistance Center set up for relatives.
Andres Galfrascoli (left) his partner Fabian Nunez, right, and their newly adopted daughter Sofia, who was six, died while visiting their apartment in Florida to get vaccinated
The family of Luis Barth say the 51-year-old was visiting from Colombia and was staying in a friend’s condo with his wife and daughter. The condo was on the collapsed side and no one has heard from any of them
Ilan Naibryf and his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin have not been heard from and were staying in the apartment building
Ricky and Maituca Rovirosa are also missing, family members told Local 10
Also missing is a famed Argentinian plastic surgeon, his partner, and their newly-adopted six year-old daughter.
That surgeon – Andres Galfrasconi, 45 – was visiting Miami with his partner Fabian Nunez, 55, and their daughter Sofia, six, to receive their COVID-19 vaccines.
Argentinian singer Julia Zenko was one of Galfrasconi’s clients, with Zyri.net reporting she was ‘very distressed’ by his disappearance following the collapse.
The couple and their daughter were staying at an apartment owned by an unidentified friend, who says she has not been able to contact them.
Judy Spiegel, 66, the wife of former Erlanger Health System Chief Executive Officer Kevin Spiegel is also missing.
He confirmed in a text message to WRCBTV that she was still unaccounted for Thursday afternoon.
The two lived together.
‘I’m flying to Miami now,’ he wrote. Please pray for her.’
Edgar Gonzalez, who lived on the ninth floor with his family, is still unaccounted, his relatives told NBC.
Gonzalez’s wife and daughter are currently being treated in hospital, according to the family.
Graciella Catarossi (left) and her daughter Estella (right) are also missing. They were staying with Graciella’s elderly parents, who have not been identified, but are also unaccounted for
The family of Luis Barth say the 51-year-old was visiting from Colombia and was staying in a friend’s condo with his wife and daughter.
Barth’s brother Sergio, who lives in Miami, told the New York Times the condo they were staying in was on the collapsed side and that he has been unable to reach him.
Theresa Valasquez, 36, was visiting her parents Julio, 67, and Angela, 60, when the towers collapsed.
Her brother David Velasquez wrote on Facebook that his sister had arrived at their parents’ condo on Wednesday, and have not been found.
Alfredo and his son Lorenzo Leone are also missing. A friend told CBS4 that their mother was out of town and is flying back
Judy Spiegel, 66, (left) the wife of former Erlanger Health System Chief Executive Officer Kevin Spiegel, and Estelle Hedaya (right) are also missing. A friend told CBS 4 that she was on the phone with Hedaya for an hour and a half last night, but is currently unable to get hold of her
Elaine Sabino (left) lived on the 12 floor and Linda March (right) lived in penthouse 4 of the condo. March is an attorney who had recently moved back from Miami from New York, a friend told Local 10. Both are still missing
Also missing is Estelle Hedaya.
A friend of Hedaya told CBS4 that the two had spoken on the phone for an hour and a half last night, but is currently unable to get hold of her.
Graciella Catarossi, and her daughter Estella are also missing.
A friend told Local 10 that the two were staying with Graciella’s elderly parents, who are also unaccounted for.
Luis Andres Bermudez, 26, is missing along with his mother Ana Ortiz.
Bermudez reportedly has muscular dystrophy and cannot walk or call for help, a cousin told CBS4.
Alfredo Leone and his young son Lorenzo are also unaccounted for.
A friend told CBS4 that their mother was out of town and is flying back.
Elaine Sabino was on the 12th floor and is also still missing.
Linda March was renting a penthouse in the condo. March is an attorney who had recently moved back from Miami from New York after recovering from COVID-19, a friend told Local 10.
March had been complaining recently about the noise caused by the repairs being made to the tower’s roof, the friend said.
Messages sent to March’s phone were unanswered and the friend said they recognized bunk beds and a desk chair exposed in the side of the partially collapsed building as belonging to the apartment she was staying in.
Brothers Frankie and Jay Kleinman as well as their mother Nancy Kress Levin are also missing.
They were with Annie Ortiz, her son Luis Bermudez as well as Deborah Berezdivin.
A friend told the Miami Herald that all six are Puerto Rican.
At least 27 people from Latin American nations are among the missing, the Herald also reported.
Myriam and Arnie Notkin are among the missing. Arnie is a longtime peewee football coach in Flamingo Park, NBC reported
Raymond and Mercedes Urgelles. Their daughter Jenny has been trying to reach them since 5.30am, according to NBC
Theresa Velasquez (left) was missing along with her parents Julio and Angela Velasquez (right). Theresa was visiting them during the collapse and the three have not been heard from, her brother posted on Facebook
Nicky Langesfeld and Luis Sadovnic were living on the eighth floor, CBS4 Miami reported
Moises Rodan, 28, lived in unit 308, according to CBS4 Miami
More than 100 people gathered at a family reunification center by mid-morning on Thursday as they awaited news on their family and friends.
Authorities said 120 people had been accounted for but 159 who are believed to have lived in the building were still missing as of Friday morning. It was unclear whether any, or all of them, were inside at the time of the collapse.
The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents.
Officials say the building keeps a log of guests staying but does not keep track of when owners are in residence.
Thirty-five people were rescued from the damaged building and 14 people, including a young boy, were pulled from the rubble in the early stages of the search operation. Two of those people, including the woman who has since died, were taken to hospital. Three more fatalities were confirmed Friday morning.
Authorities fear many more people may be dead or remain trapped under the rubble and have already warned the recovery efforts could last an entire week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said rescue teams had made contact with some survivors by mid-morning but did not elaborate on where they were located or if they had been rescued.
‘Right now, we have the fire rescue. They are in search and rescue mode. They are trying to identify survivors, I know they have made contact with some, and I know they are doing everything they can to save lives,’ he said.
Luz Marina holds a picture of her aunt, Marina Azen
Marina Azen and Michael Altman are also missing. Azen has been living in the condo for about 20 years, family told CBS4 Miami
Crowds of people were gathering at a family reunification center set up nearby as they awaited news on their family and friends
Authorities say the building was ‘substantially full’ when it collapsed. Of the building’s 136 apartments, 55 were destroyed. Families are pictured at a family reunification center on Thursday morning