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Surfside mayor shares heartbreaking story of girl whose mother was in collapsed condo building

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett speaks at a news conference on June 28, 2021.jpg
Posted at 12:01 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 15:35:10-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — On Monday, the mayor of Surfside, Florida, shared a heartbreaking account of a little girl who's desperately hoping first responders will find her mother after last week's deadly condominium collapse.

Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Charles Burkett said he was touring the Champlain Towers site on Sunday night and came across a little girl who was 11 or 12 years old.

"One of her parents was in that building at the time of the collapse," Burkett said.

Burkett said the girl was sitting in a chair by herself, looking at her phone, as dozens of dedicated first responders dug through the mounds of dangerous rubble just feet away.

"I knelt down, and I asked her, 'What are you doing? Are you OK?'" Burkett said. "She was reading a Jewish prayer to herself, sitting at the site by where one of her parents presumably is. And that really brought it home to me. She wasn't crying. She was just lost. She didn't know what to do, what to say, who to talk to."

Burkett said he hopes to see her again and wants her to know the community is behind her.

"I am going to find her, and I am going to tell her that we're all here for her. And we're gonna do the best we can to bring out that parent," Burkett said.

Surfside mayor talks search-and-rescue efforts

Officials on Monday said that 10 people are dead and 151 are missing, four days after the Champlain Towers South condominium building partially collapsed. Officials added that they've accounted for 135 people who were in the building at the time of the collapse.

Emergency crews are working around the clock in 12-hour shifts using K9 dogs, various cameras, drones, sonar equipment, and heavy machinery to clear away chunks of debris.

"There's a joint effort, there's a camaraderie, and everybody has the same goal. And that's to pull people out of there," Burkett said.

Miami-​Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said, at this point, there are no plans to suspend the search-and-rescue operations.

"In the end, there are numerous variables and facts. It's not based on opinions; it's not based on time," Jadallah said. "We have to consider all options."

A large wall on Harding Avenue, just south of 88th Street in the shadow of the Champlain Towers, is growing on Monday, showing the names and photos of dozens of missing people.

Family members, friends, and even strangers stop by to pay their respects, light candles and leave small mementos behind.

One person even made a poster that reads "Thank You For Looking For My Grandmother."

A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021 (1).jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021 (2).jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.

A Family Information and Reunification Center continues to operate at the Surfside Recreation Center, located at 9301 Collins Avenue, for people who are unable to locate their relatives who live in the building.

Loved ones can open a Missing Person Report by clicking here or calling 833-930-3701.

If you live at the Champlain Towers property or you know a person who lives there who has been found safe, click here.

This story was originally published by Matt Papaycik on Scripps station WPTV in Palm Beach, Florida.