Israel Delegation in Miami to Aid Search and Rescue Efforts After Condo Collapse

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Rescue workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Floriday, Saturday.
Rescue workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, Floriday, Saturday.Credit: Gerald Herbert,AP

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has approved sending a search-and-rescue delegation to Miami, Florida to assist rescue efforts following the collapse of a residential building, where four people have died and over 150 are still missing. 

The delegation will include soldiers from the IDF Home Front Command who specialize in engineering and medical treatment. The delegation was organized by Israeli officials in the defense and foreign ministries, as well as the IDF, in coordination with Florida's state government.

"As in every national mission, the IDF and the defense establishment are prepared to respond, act and help," Gantz said. "We will make every effort needed to save human lives and support the Jewish community and our American friends."  

United Hatzalah, an Israeli volunteer-based emergency services organization, said a group of its workers would be flying to Miami on Saturday evening to assist those affected in the building collapse.

A beachfront condo building partially collapsed Thursday outside Miami, killing at least one person and trapping others in the tower. Dozens of survivors have been pulled out, and rescuers kept up a desperate search for more.

A wing of the 12-story building in the community of Surfside came down with a roar around 1:30 A.M. By late afternoon, nearly 100 people were still unaccounted for, authorities said, raising fears that the death toll could climb sharply. Officials did not know how many were in the tower when it fell.

What caused the 40-year-old high-rise to tumble into a heap in a matter of seconds was not immediately known, though local officials said the 12-story tower was undergoing roof construction and other repairs.

“The building is literally pancaked,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean, to me, that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”

The Surfside neighborhood is a largely Jewish one, where one third of local residents are believed to be Orthodox Jews. Surfside is one of four small cities that together make up North Beach, and the area is more than a third Jewish. In total, North Beach has more than 14,000 residents and more than 5,000 Jews, according to Ira Sheskin, who authored a 2014 Jewish population study on the greater Miami area.

Miami Beach is freckled with synagogues and kosher restaurants. The Jews of North Beach, in particular, are more observant than American Jews as a whole, according to Sheskin. They’re 34 percent Orthodox, 24 percent Conservative, 18 percent Reform and 24 percent “just Jewish.” By contrast, American Jews more generally are about 10 percent Orthodox.

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