A Champlain Towers resident says when he first felt his bedroom shake last week, he thought he was dreaming about an earthquake, but soon he realized his nightmare was a reality filled with dust raining from the ceiling and his neighbors’ desperate screams for help.
Steve Rosenthal, 72, was among some of the more fortunate tenants who were rescued when the 12-story condominium building in suburban Miami collapsed early Thursday morning, killing at least nine people and leaving 150 others missing.
Rosenthal was asleep in his corner unit on the fourth floor of the apartment building in Surfside at around 1.30am on the morning of the disaster when he said he heard what he described as ‘the loudest thunderclap times a hundred,’ followed by violent shaking.
Steve Rosenthal, 72, was rescued from his corner unit at the doomed Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida, last Thursday. He said he heard people screaming: ‘Help me! Get me out!’
Search and rescue personnel search for survivors through the rubble at the Champlain Towers South in Surfside on Sunday
Rosenthal said the unit right next to his crumbled. So far, nine people have been confirmed dead
‘I’m saying, “I’m in a dream about an earthquake in California. This isn’t real,”‘ he recounted on Sunday to multiple news outlets, including News4Jax.
When dust began settling on Rosenthal, he realized that what he was experiencing was no dream and ran into the hallway.
‘The ceiling’s down. Cement and rocks. People yelling and screaming, “Help me. Help me. Get me out. Get me out,”‘ Rosenthal recalled.
The collapse survivor said the apartment that was located right next to his crumbled.
‘One unit over, and I’m gone, and I’m gone,’ Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal ran back inside his apartment to change clothes and pack a few of his belongings. He then went onto his fourth-floor balcony, where he was rescued by firefighters via a ladder truck.
Rosenthal was rescued by firefighters from his fourth-floor balcony, similar to those pictured above
Rescue workers are using sniffer dogs to try and locate survivors in the rubble
‘Thank God I am alive, I believe my parents were looking out for me,’ he told the New York Post.
Rosenthal said when he observed the pile of rubble that had been his apartment building, he realized that he likely lost several friends in the collapse.
Repeated calls to those people have gone unanswered, said Rosenthal.
‘I lost at least 10 people that they’re showing pictures on the TV that are missing,’ the man said. ‘They are all on that one side that went down.’
Rosenthal is now one of the survivors receiving aid from Global Empowerment Mission, a non-for-profit organization started by Miami businessman and philanthropist Michael Capponi, reported NBC Miami.
In the wake of the building collapse, Capponi’s foundation has been handing out $1,500 prepaid debit cards and care packages containing basic necessities to people who have lost their homes.
Meanwhile, a search and rescue operation at the site of the collapse entered its sixth day, with workers feverishly digging through mounds of debris in search of survivors, aided by sniffer dogs and radar and sonar equipment.
No one has been pulled out alive from the rubble since the first day the structure fell.
More than 150 people remain unaccounted for as the search for survivors enters Day 6
Family members of those missing from Champlain Towers South Condo collapse arrive back at the reunification center after visiting the scene in Surfside Sunday
The death toll rose by just four people Sunday, to a total of nine confirmed dead. But more than 150 people are still missing in Surfside.
The 40-year-old building came down just days before a deadline for condo owners to start making steep payments toward more than $9million in repairs that had been recommended nearly three years earlier, in a report that warned of ‘major structural damage.’
Rosenthal, who had lived in his corner unit No 705 for 20 years, told the Post he had observed cracks in his balcony but was not concerned about the structural integrity of the building.
‘Now that I am seeing these structural engineers’ reports coming … stuff should have been done years ago, and maybe they’re negligent,’ he told the paper. ‘It is scary to think about.’