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A memorial with photographs of people confirmed dead and missing in rubble of Champlain Towers South. Photo: Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images

The collapse of a 12-story condominium near Miami Beach a week ago has reverberated throughout Latin America.

Why it matters: Miami is more than 70% Latino and has historically offered refuge from some trying to escape the hemisphere’s turmoils.

  • Several residents of the Champlain Towers South, which collapsed in the middle of the night, had fled oppressive regimes in Cuba and Venezuela. Others were seeking protection from the COVID-19 virus. At least one was on her first trip abroad.

Details: So far, 139 people have been accounted for, but 145 are still missing.

Among the 18 dead:
  • Hilda Noriega, 92, had fled Cuba right after the Revolution in 1960 and was planning to sell her condo to move in with her son Carlos Noriega, chief of Florida’s North Bay Village police.
  • Antonio Lozano, 83, also had fled Cuba and lived on the 9th floor with his wife Gladys, 79. The couple died after celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary.
  • Puerto Ricans Luis Bermúdez, 26, lived with his newlywed mother, Ana Ortiz, 46, and her husband, Frank Kleiman, 55, a grandfather-to-be, on the seventh floor. Kleiman's family are among the missing.
  • Venezuelan émigrés Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74, and Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, had just recently moved to Florida from Illinois.
  • Manuel LaFont, 54, was a business consultant and Little League coach. 21-year-old student Andreas Giannitsopoulos, a son of LaFont’s best friend, was staying in the eighth-floor condo.
  • Costa Rica-born Michael David Altman, 50, an accountant, had lived in the U.S. since he was 4.
  • Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, was rescued from the building but died in the hospital. Her teenage son Jonah Handler was one of the few carried out alive from the rubble on the first day.
Among the missing:
Sophia López Moreira, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady, along with her husband, Luis Pettengill and their three children. Photo: Courtesy via Noticias Telemundo
  • Luis Barth, his wife Catalina Gómez and their 14-year-old daughter Valeria. The family had flown from Colombia to Miami for COVID-19 vaccinations, as many throughout Latin America have done.
  • Maricoy Obias-Bonnefoy, 69, and her husband, Claudio Bonnefoy, 85, who is related to former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
  • Sophia López Moreira, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady, is missing along with her husband, Luis Pettengill, their three children and Leidy Luna Villalba, 23, the children's nanny. The trip to Surfside was Luna's first abroad.
  • Andrés Galfrascoli, a renowned plastic surgeon, and Fabián Núñez were on holiday from Argentina with 5-year-old daughter Sofía.

The collapse happened around 1 a.m. when many of the building’s residents were asleep. Those who escaped, such as Grey Alcántara, offered harrowing tales.

  • “We lived on the 7th floor and felt everything move as if it was an earthquake… we were barely able to get to the emergency stairwell after hearing someone yell we all had to get out,” Alcántara told Noticias Telemundo.

The intrigue: Myriad problems in Champlain Towers South have come to light.

  • A building engineer identified structural damage during a 2018 inspection.
  • The condo board president sent a letter to residents in April explaining that conditions had deteriorated since then and would cost $15 million to fix.
  • Photos taken two days before the collapse also show further cracks in the pool area.

Florida’s state attorney on Wednesday announced a grand jury investigation.

Rescue efforts were suspended on Thursday because of the structure's instability. Rain during the week hampered the ability to hear possible survivors.

  • International crews from Israel and Mexico that specialize in rescue operations after earthquakes and airstrikes are on the scene.

The latest: President Joe Biden is meeting with the families and loved ones today in Miami.

Go deeper

Death toll in Surfside condo collapse rises to 12, prosecutor to seek grand jury

Search and rescue teams, June 29 in Surfside, Fla. Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images

The death toll in last week's Surfside condo collapse has risen to 12, with 149 people still unaccounted for, officials said Tuesday evening.

The latest: Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she would ask a grand jury to "look at what steps we can take to safeguard our residents without jeopardizing any scientific, public safety, or potential criminal investigations."

Updated Jun 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Death toll in Surfside condo collapse rises to 18

The site of the 12-story residential tower that partially collapsed on June 24 in Surfside Fla. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The bodies of two additional victims have been recovered from the rubble of the Surfside building collapse, bringing the death toll to 18, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday. 145 people remain unaccounted for.

The latest: At an afternoon briefing, Cava said two of the 18 fatalities were children, ages 4 and 10.

Updated Jul 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden visits Surfside as search efforts paused over "structural concerns"

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Biden. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Search efforts have paused at the site of the condo collapse in Surfside due to "structural concerns about the standing structure," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference Thursday.

Driving the news: The halt in rescue efforts began at approximately 2 a.m. Thursday morning due to concerns that the remaining portion of the residential building could fall, per Miami-Dade fire chief Alan Cominsky.