FAMILY members of a couple missing in the aftermath of a horrifying condo tower collapse in Florida last week say they're still receiving mysterious phone calls from the pair's phone.
Myriam and Arnie Notkin are among the 150 people still unaccounted for since the Champlain Towers South condo collapsed in Surfside on Thursday morning. So far, 11 have been confirmed dead.
But family members of the grandparents say they've been given a slither of hope that the pair are still alive as they continue to receive calls from their landline.
According to their daughter, Dianne Ohayon, family members have received at least 20 calls since the catastrophe, the most recent of which came early Monday morning.
Speaking to the NY Post, Ohayon said it was her younger sister who received the call yesterday.
"They're coming in every day," Ohayon, 56, said of the haunting calls. "The last one I have knowledge about was Monday morning, a call came in at about 5.30am."
According to Ohayon, all her family has been able to hear on the calls is static, and "it's the same thing every time."
Her nephew, Jake Samuelson, has contacted Surfside PD to help solve the mystery of how calls from the missing couple's phone can continue to happen five days on from the horrifying collapse.
“There’s nobody on the line and it’s just static,” said Ohayon, who picked up one of the calls on Sunday night. "And we wait to and we just hang up because nothing changes."
A caller ID on her sister's phone indicates that the calls are coming from 81-year-old Miriam and 87-year-old Arnie's landline inside apartment 302, where they kept their phone next to their bed.
“My nephew went on camera to try and find answers, raise awareness and maybe find out if other family members in the building were also receiving calls,” Ohayon told the Post.
“We were just not understanding what these phone calls were meaning. Maybe they were calling for help. We don’t know what they mean.”
Police are yet to come back to Ohayon and her family with answers regarding the calls.
She said that she, her sister, and her nephew, are all eagerly awaiting word from police both about the calls and the fates of the missing pair.
“We didn’t know what to think or what was going on,” she said. “We’re just sitting and waiting. We feel hopeless at this point.”
Calls to the couple's number on Saturday were met with a busy signal, according to a report by WPLG.
“We’re still waiting, every day," Ohayon added to the Post. "The days are long, but we’re still hopeful and we’re just waiting. Every day is the same process.”
Rescue crews have been working around the clock in Surfside, frantically sifting through the rubble in search of life in the five days since the tower collapsed in the early hours of the morning.
The last live person rescued from the site came on Thursday, just hours after the collapse.
However, officials remain hopeful that some of the 150 missing may still be alive.
While specifically what caused the building to collapse remains uncertain, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava insisted that search and rescue operations remain the top priority at this time.
"We're going to continue and work ceaselessly to exhaust every possible option in our search. Right now our top priority is search and rescue and find the people," she said.
"They're out there with every resource that they need to ensure that they can search this area," she said of rescue crews, adding that recovery efforts had continued throughout the night.
Such resources include sonar scanners, sniffer dogs, infrared cameras, and heavy machinery, the mayor said.
Levine Cava also warned that the numbers of the dead and missing are "very fluid" and will continue to change in the days and hours ahead.
Maggie Castro of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue also stressed on Monday that officials know "time is of the essence."
"We're still in a rescue mode, but as you can imagine, we're starting to understand that it's going to be less likely that we're going to be finding survivors."
According to Castro, some frustrated family members of the missing have started directing their anger towards rescuers.
"They're looking for someone to blame. There is no one they can blame at this point. The emotions have to go somewhere. We understand that," Castro said.
"We've asked the families that if you need to vent, you [can] vent at us."
Also on Monday, chilling calls between the first firefighters on the scene were released publicly, revealing the moment officials reported the "building is gone" and compared the devastating scene to the 9/11 attacks.
“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," one firefighter is heard saying.
"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."
The same firefighter described to the dispatcher the extent of the damage, stating, "I see many people are the balconies.
“There are no elevators. The building is gone. There are no elevators. It almost resembles the Trade Center," he said.
President Joe Biden announced that he will visit the collapsed condo building with First Lady Jill Biden on Thursday.
It comes as shocking pictures show the extensive flood damage inside the apartment block just 36 hours before it collapsed.
Pictures that were taken by a contractor, who is unnamed, show the flood damage inside the doomed condo.
A former maintenance worker, William Espinosa, also revealed that the basement of the building was regularly flooded with seawater.
Espinosa said up to two feet of floodwater could enter the parking lot as it seeped through the building’s concrete structure.
He told CBS: “Any time that we had high tides away from the ordinary, any King Tide, or anything like that we would have a lot of saltwater come in through the bottom of the foundation.”
The cause of the collapse remains unknown but building managers discovered a hole that could’ve been caused by saltwater intrusion, Mail Online reports.
Saltwater is corrosive meaning it can slowly damage concrete and cause rebar to rust.
Residents were reportedly told that the apartment block was in “very good shape” after structural issues were flagged in 2018.
Minutes from a board meeting held in November 2018 appear to show that Surfside building official Ross Prieto told residents that the structure was in "very good shape" – after reportedly receiving the report warning about the structural issues, according to the Miami Herald.
Prieto reportedly wrote in the email: "The response was very positive from everyone in the room. All main concerns over their forty-year recertification process were addressed.
"This particular building is not due to begin their forty-year until 2021 but they have decided to start the process early which I wholeheartedly endorse and wish that this trend would catch on with other properties."
Residents of Champlain Towers sister building’s East and North have been given the option of moving into temporary accommodation while the structures are inspected.
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