Expert on search, recovery effort after Florida condo collapse: 'Every second counts'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Watching the devastating images following the Florida condo building collapse, many may be left wondering: how could anyone survive?

As of Thursday evening, officials said 102 people were identified and declared safe. Rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the wreckage in the first hours after the collapse. Searchers were also trying to reach a trapped child whose parents were believed to be dead. In another case, rescuers saved a mother and child, but the woman's leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble, officials said.

Captain Thomas Richey with the Philadelphia Fire Department said at a scene like this, a top mission is saving lives.

"Anytime that they can save a life or find somebody and begin that dig out process, that is going to reinvigorate them and rejuvenate them and it's all about the mission," he said.



He says in a collapse every second counts, especially if you are trapped.

Fire experts say digging out is only recommended if it gets you to safety and does not put you in greater danger.

If you are trapped, experts say it may be difficult, but try to stay calm. Call for help and make lots of noise.

"Try to find something that they can use, something made out of metal a pot, anything to hit a wall or a pipe," Richey said. "The first responders will be listening with their ears but they will also be listening with high tech microphones."

But oftentimes, there few options for those trapped in a major collapse like the one in Florida.



"We never like to give up, but the unfortunate facts are that the longer someone is trapped without food, without water, unable to breathe or face sustained injuries, it is less likely that they will survive," Richey said.

As the hours and days pass, what was once a rescue mission will be deemed a recovery mission.

"We still may find the miracle survivors. That is almost always the case, that there is someone there that survived even beyond what we can imagine."
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