, Fla. (AP) — Rescue workers digging for a fifth day into the wreckage of a Florida
condo building emphasized Monday that they could still find survivors, a hope family
members clung to despite the fact that no one has been pulled out alive since the structure collapsed.
was discovered overnight, bringing the confirmed death toll
to ten. However, more than 150 people
remain unaccounted for in Surfside, and their families boarded buses Sunday to a nearby site to witness
the intense rescue effort, which included firefighters
, sniffer dogs
, and search experts using radar and sonar devices.
A crane lifted a large slab of concrete from the debris pile early Monday, allowing about 30 hard hat rescuers to move in and carry smaller pieces of debris into red buckets, which are then emptied into a larger bin for a crane to remove. The work has been complicated by intermittent rain
showers, but the fires that hampered the initial search have been extinguished.
Andy Alvarez, a deputy incident commander with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue
, told ABC
's "Good Morning America
" that rescuers have found some voids inside the wreckage, primarily in the basement and parking garage.
“We have over 80 rescuers at any given time breaching the collapsed walls in a frantic effort to try to rescue those who are still alive and to get to those voids that we typically know exist in these buildings,” Alvarez said.
“We’ve been able to tunnel through the building,” Alvarez continued, “and this is a frantic search for that hope, that miracle, to see who we can bring out of this building alive.”
Others who have seen the wreckage up close were intimidated by the task ahead. Alfredo Lopez, who lived with his wife in a sixth-floor corner apartment and narrowly escaped, said he finds it difficult to believe anyone is still alive among the rubble.
“If you saw what I saw: nothingness, and then you go over there and see all the rubble, how can somebody survive that?” Lopez asked The Associated Press
Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, who is leading a humanitarian delegation from Israel that includes several search-and-rescue experts, said professionals have told him of cases where survivors were discovered after being missing for 100 hours or more.
“So don't give up hope,” he advised.
Some families had hoped that their visit to the site near the 12-story building would allow them to shout messages to loved ones who might be buried inside the pile. As they returned to a nearby hotel, several paused to embrace as they got off the bus, while others walked slowly back to the hotel entrance with arms around each other.
“We just want answers,” Dianne Ohayon, whose parents, Myriam and Arnie Notkin, were in the building, said. “It’s hard to go through these long days and we haven’t gotten any yet.”
The building collapsed just days before a deadline for condo owners to begin making significant payments toward more than $9 million in repairs recommended nearly three years earlier in a report that warned of “major structural damage.”
The additional four people recovered on Sunday were identified as Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and his wife, Christina Beatriz Elvira Oliwkowicz, 74; Ana Ortiz, 46, and her son Luis Bermudez, 26; and Ana Ortiz, 46, and her son Luis Bermudez, 26. There were 152 people still missing.
Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah explained that the site's conditions have frustrated crews searching for survivors, and Alan Cominsky, chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, said his team must move slowly and methodically.
“The debris field is scattered throughout, and it’s compact, extremely compact,” he explained, noting that teams must stabilize and shore up debris as they move.
“We can’t just go in and move things around erratically because that will result in the worst possible outcome,” he explained.
A microwave radar device developed by NASA
's Jet Propulsion Lab and the Department of Homeland Security
that "sees" through up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of solid concrete was used by rescuers, according to Adrian Garulay, CEO
of Spec Ops Group, which sells them. The suitcase-size device can detect human respiration and heartbeats and was deployed Sunday by a seven-member search and rescue
Six to eight teams are actively searching the pile at any given time, with hundreds of team members on standby ready to rotate in, according to Miami-Dade Mayor
Daniella Levine Cava. Teams have been working around the clock since Thursday.
Crews spent Saturday night digging a trench 125 feet long, 20 feet across, and 40 feet deep (38 meters long, 6 meters across, and 12 meters deep), which allowed them to find more bodies and human remains, she said.
Rushing into the rubble without careful planning and execution
, according to Earl Tilton, owner of a search-and-rescue consulting firm in North Carolina
, could injure or kill rescuers and those they are attempting to save.
According to him, “moving
the wrong piece of debris at the wrong time could cause it to fall” on workers and crush them.
Tilton, on the other hand, agreed that families were not wrong to be optimistic, pointing out that in previous urban rescues, rescuers had discovered survivors up to a week after the initial disaster.
This report was contributed to by Associated Press writers Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami, Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale
, Florida; Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida; Julie Walker in New York
, and others from across the country.