Chilling audio emerged of frantic first responders arriving at the scene of the partially collapsed Florida condo building – including one who compared the disaster site to the World Trade Center.
“Arrival at 88th and Collins. We have a 13-story building with most of the building gone,” an Engine 76 firefighter tells a dispatcher, according to the recording obtained by NBC 6, as search-and-rescue operations entered their sixth day Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a high priority. We’re going to need TRTs [Technical Rescue Teams], we’re going to need a full assignment on this, everybody,” the smoke-eater says.
“A quarter of the building is left, we still have people standing upstairs that still need to be evacuated. We are going to need a full TRT assignment,” he continues.
“I see many people are the balconies. There’s no elevators. The building is gone. There are no elevators. It almost resembles the Trade Center,” the incredulous firefighter adds.
Meanwhile, a firefighter from Engine 44 is heard saying: “Some people are evacuating. They said it sounds like they heard a bomb.”
The fire crews can be heard giving instructions to their colleagues on how to approach the mountain of rubble and debris from the Champlain Towers South in Surfside.
“Pull up to the light and stop. We need to contain this whole area. This building does not look stable,” a firefighter says.
Pete Gomez, a search-and-rescue expert and retired Miami assistant fire chief, told NBC 6 that what he heard in the communications saved lives of trapped residents as well as firefighters.
“There’s no doubt. Not only the victims that were there — the people that needed to be rescued — but maintaining a command and control presence for the units that were coming in,” Gomez said.
“You know that we cannot have people going rogue and doing their own thing. These folks want to go in there and they want to start working and that incident commander, Battalion One and Engine 76 at the beginning, you can tell that they were gaining control of the scene and not allowing people to go rogue because you could have lost firefighters, first responders if you didn’t do that,” he added.
On Tuesday, the death toll in the catastrophic collapse stood at 11, with 150 people unaccounted for with hopes fading by the hour of pulling anyone else alive from the rubble.