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Collapse survivors escaped with their lives, but not much else – press enterprise

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By RUSS BYNUM and KELLI KENNEDY

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) – Susana Alvarez fled her home on the 10th floor of the South Champlain Towers, escaping with her life and little else.

“I have nothing,” said the 62-year-old survivor of a condominium collapse just outside Miami. “I went out with my pajamas and my phone on.

The disaster that killed at least 20 people, more than 120 of whom are still missing, also left dozens homeless. Many lost cars too, buried in the building’s underground car park.

Although most of those who managed to get to safety lived in parts of the building that remain standing, they have little hope of returning to retrieve the clothes, computers, jewelry, and sentimental possessions they left behind. .

Officials said Thursday they were making plans for the likely demolition of all parts of the building that did not collapse. The announcement came after search and rescue operations were halted for hours due to growing signs that the structure was dangerously unstable.

Alvarez is still dealing with the trauma. She hasn’t slept in a bed since the collapse a week ago. Instead, she slept on a chair, constantly thinking about the victims who couldn’t escape.

“I lost everything,” Alvarez said, “and that doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Yet friends and even complete strangers helped replace what she lost. Friends she stays with outfitted her with new clothes and a computer. An eyewear store renewed her prescription, although she never called her. And she got the last condo in a 16-unit building that opened rent-free to Surfside survivors for the month of July.

It’s unclear how many residents have been displaced, but those with insurance policies are expected to recoup at least some of their losses.

Victims also appear likely to get money from the liability insurer of Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, which has at least four pending lawsuits related to the collapse.

An attorney for James River Insurance Co. wrote to the judge in a case this week that he planned to “voluntarily file the full limit” of the association’s policy to resolve claims. An attached copy of the policy indicated limits between $ 1 million and $ 2 million.

Michael Capponi, president of a Miami-area nonprofit that, for the past decade, has helped victims of disasters ranging from hurricanes to wildfires in the United States and abroad, said he had personally treated 50 people who lost their homes in the building.

Capponi’s organization, Global Empowerment Mission, has distributed around $ 75,000 in gift cards to surf survivors, and he’s working with hotel and condo owners to find places they can live for the next two months. .

Most of the people who contacted his nonprofit for help lived in the part still standing, but assume their homes and everything inside are a complete loss.

“They’re going to have to start all over again,” Capponi said. “Some of them don’t have insurance and have lost everything they’ve worked for all their lives.

Ryan Logan, the American Red Cross regional disaster manager for South Florida, said the organization was helping about 18 families and some of them were looking for ways to help other victims.

“These people we serve, who we know are having the worst experience of their lives, turn around and ask you what they can do to serve,” said Logan. “It’s just amazing.”

Gabriel Nir narrowly escaped from an apartment on the first floor with his mother and 15-year-old sister. The family had just moved in six months ago. Nir, a recent college graduate, lived there while looking for a job and considering studying medicine.

For now, they are staying at a nearby hotel, their bedroom floors cluttered with items donated by friends and strangers. They don’t have any luggage. Their car was destroyed in the building’s garage. But all the material possessions they lost can be replaced, he said.

“I’m just grateful that I got out alive with my family,” Nir said.

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Kennedy reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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