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Erin Burnett Outfront
Twelve Dead, 149 Unaccounted For In High-Rise Condo Collapse; Dispatch Audio: Almost Resembles The Trade Center; 800 Responders From 60 Agencies Assisting Search And Rescue; FL State Attorney Plans To Call For Grand Jury Probe Of Collapse; L.A. County Pushes Mask Wearing Indoors, Even Among Vaccinated. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 29, 2021 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Due to the recent five-day forecast with two storms, we've decided that it'd be best to go ahead and activate them, so make that request. So the one will head this way and then we'll look to see what we'll go ahead and release.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) what are you hearing (inaudible) that's still standing, how concern are you that (inaudible) ...
MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL: So we have the structural engineers on site. They're monitoring extremely closely everything that's happening there because, obviously, we cannot put our first responders in danger. And we're removing items that we can that might fall off the building. So we are taking necessary measures to avoid those sorts of falling items.
But at this time, it's not considered that the building is at risk of collapse, but it is unstable and so we are no longer entering into them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. (Inaudible) so my question is (inaudible) fire chief (inaudible) to someone else. A line of dump trucks arrived early this afternoon. Can you walk us through where they're staging? Is there a hope to start moving some of these (inaudible) right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Those dump trucks are going to our evidence debris collection site. We're removing debris as fire rescue does. What they're doing there is move the debris. We're relocating it to a location where it'll be also collected, sift through, cataloged, photographed for future investigative purposes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you deciding what gets hauled away to the warehouse space?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are detectives on the scene, engineers. They're just loading the trucks. I guess, it's going to a DOT (ph), a secured site. When it's get there, it's been cataloged and placed in certain areas. And as the investigative process goes, they'll be sifted through and analyzed. Thank you. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) maybe update on (inaudible) and also
do you have plans to shore up the building? And as a follow up to that, when would that happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So the first question in regards to fire rescue personnel, we did have one individual that appeared to have dehydration. So yes, they were they were transported to be further evaluated, in stable condition. In regards to the building, yes, I mean, that's definitely a concern. This whole scene that we're working on, I can't emphasize enough the dangers that we're encountering.
So we're definitely been monitoring and monitoring throughout. Our (inaudible) structural engineers. We had several other engineers on site evaluating as well and we're constantly monitoring.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) plan to shore up for (inaudible) storm potentially arrive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Well, that I can't comment. I'd be difficult in that sense right now. Again, our primary focus is our rescue efforts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) of the standing parts of the building (inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm not aware of that. I mean, we definitely don't have any machinery propping up the building. We have a zone that we're making sure we're staying a certain distance from the building.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the debris that's there, we're leaving. Yes. I mean, we are leaving that there just in regards to, again, the concerns with the structural integrity of the building. That's why as the Mayor stated, we will not make any other entries into that building and we'll definitely monitor it. And yes, that's why we're not clearing out that area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spanish over here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) ...
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. You're watching a press conference, of course, in Surfside, Florida.
I'm Erin Burnett and tonight the breaking news, Florida officials just moments ago at that conference telling us the latest in the deadly condo collapse and they are saying that they have recovered another body from the rubble tonight. That puts the confirmed death toll now at 12 with 149 people still unaccounted for.
This as we're hearing for the first time what first responders said when they arrived on site. In newly released dispatch calls, one firefighter comparing it to 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a 13-storey building. We have a 13-storey building with most of the building gone. This is going to be high priority. We're going to need TRTs. We're going to need a full assignment on this, everybody.
Seventy-six command, with a quarter of the building that's left - we still have people standing upstairs that still need to be evacuated. I see many people on their balconies. The building is gone. There's no elevators. This is nothing. I mean, it almost resembles the trade center.
Some people evacuating say it sounded like they heard a bomb.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do have people on the balconies shouting that they are trapped inside of their apartments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And we're learning more about potentially catastrophic issues with the building that the condo Board was aware of at the time of the collapse. We obtained a letter from the Board President to owners written just two months ago detailing damage to the building. And in that letter it warns quote that 'the concrete damage observed would begin to multiply exponentially." Exponentially, that was a letter from the Board to owners.
We have much more on than that in just a couple of moments. But right now, I just want you to understand what's happening there, you see the throngs of first responders, hundreds of them from 60 agencies on the ground assisting with search and rescue. Officials say more than 3 million pounds of concrete, 3 million pounds, let me just say that again, have already been removed from the site. Rain throughout the day hampering the search efforts.
The White House saying today that President Biden and the First Lady will be heading to Surfside on Thursday to thank first responders and rescue teams and meet with families. Boris Sanchez is OUTFRONT in Surfside tonight.
So Boris, what more are you learning about what could have led to this unacceptable event, this collapse?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the exact cause of the collapse remains a mystery. In fact, experts tell us that it could have been a combination of different factors that ultimately led to the tower coming down. Despite that, we are learning that there are mounting signs, red flags that were potentially underappreciated or perhaps even ignored by building officials.
We should also point out for the first time we were hearing dispatch audio, the conversations that rescue workers were having as the unthinkable unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This building does not look stable. A quarter of the building that's left, we still have people standing upstairs that still need to be evacuated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ (voice over): As families brace for news about their loved ones tonight, new details emerging about structural decay inside Champlain Towers South. In a letter first obtained by CNN's Erin Burnett OUTFRONT, the condo Board's President estimating the building needed $15 million in repairs, telling residents in April, "The concrete deterioration is accelerating.
The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated." Adding, "The observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection."
That initial inspection, a 2018 survey, completed by a consulting company outlining major structural damage, including significant corrosion and cracking beneath the pool and entrance drive. The area below the pool drawing scrutiny as these photos obtained Monday by the Miami Herald taken below the pool deck two days before collapse, showing damaged concrete and standing water.
Notably, according to The New York Times, in 2015, building management settled a lawsuit alleging water frequently seeped in through the structure's outer walls. By 2021, Board President, Jean Wodnicki, telling residents that new problems had been identified and warning that rebar holding portions of concrete together was rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SCHWARTZBAUM, ATTORNEY: That was a total alarm going off that something needed to be done on an emergency basis and conversations that we're having with victims is that they were told it's not such a big deal, everything is fine, we can put it off. So people didn't take these warnings seriously and now we see the results and it's devastating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ (voice over): Attorney Adam Schwartzbaum filed a new class action lawsuit on behalf of residents. At least the third lawsuit filed against the building's management. His grandparents also lived in Champlain Towers South for three decades and voiced concerns about water leaking into the garage more than 10 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARTZBAUM: So we're talking about decades of people raising serious issues about water intrusion, about problems with the building and the condo association sitting on their hands and waiting and until it was too late to do something about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ (on camera): Erin, officials have vowed that the investigation into the collapse will be thorough and extensive. And case in point, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, supporting a push by the State Attorney in the county to essentially impanel a grand jury to investigate the causes of the collapse.
Either way, the push to get answers this effort, it is going to take a long time and it is going to be excruciating for these families not only to get answers about their loved ones and those that are still missing, but of course the causes of this calamity, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Boris, thank you very much.
I want to go straight now to Sharon Schechter. She survived the collapse at the Champlain Towers South. And Sharon, thank God for that. This whole horrific situation I know for you has a deeply personal feeling every step of the way here. I know you've lived there for about four years. Did you ever notice any problems with the building?
SHARON SCHECHTER, SURVIVED CONDO COLLAPSE, KNOWS PEOPLE UNACCOUNTED FOR: Excuse me. Well, there was a lot of water in the garage constantly and you saw cracks around the building. But I was constantly told that they were going to be recertifying the building shortly. They had renderings in the lobby for several years. It was on and off they were going to start, then they've decided to put it on hold because that was the deciding factor if I would renew every year. I didn't want to live in a building that I was going to be closed in and a lot of construction.
And then they started with the roof. They were repairing the roof a couple of months ago. And at that point, they said that they're going to be starting in September to do more construction in the building.
BURNETT: So as you mentioned, you're renting the apartment so you did not receive the letter that I have here from the Board, from the condo Board President to the owners. It's a pretty terrifying letter. I have to imagine how many people actually read it at the time and had it sink in obviously now knowing what has occurred, it's horrific to read it.
I want to read again part of it. Again, just so people understand, Sharon, this was in April 2021, so just two months ago and it talks about all this extra work needed on top of the work that they said they found out was required after a 2018 inspection found major structural damage. So the new letter reads and I just want to quote in park Sharon to you. "That estimate of how much money indicated that the concrete damage
observed would begin to multiply exponentially over the years, and indeed, the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection. The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated."
It's a pretty terrifying thing to read when they're using words like exponential. Does any of this surprise you and is this what you observed? Did you notice it just in these past few years getting much worse?
SCHECHTER: So the garage kept peeling and it became where the whole ceiling was peeling. At first, it was just in sections and then everyday there were water pockets. A couple of months ago, the engineers they asked me if they can come through the building. They had to go on the terraces.
I'm not sure what they were doing, but they had to either take off some debris or they were just observing the rails. But I know that the engineers were in the building preparing for major construction, but the garage was getting to a point where it was dripping on my car and causing a little bit of damage.
The other day I actually called one of the, I guess, building superintendents and he helped get something off of my car. But the whole ceiling was peeling massively every day. And you could see cracks in the building and it needed a lot of work since ...
BURNETT: So ...
SCHECHTER: ... go ahead, sorry.
BURNETT: No, no, no, I mean, obviously it's like now you look at those things and I know obviously you see them differently, but I mean it's awful. I mean, the condition obviously needed to do a lot of work that had not been done when it should be.
Sharon, let me just ask you what your experience was the night of the collapse. Tell me what happened and what you saw and heard from where you were.
SCHECHTER: So my apartment is on the 11th floor facing the ocean. And around 1:30 I heard - I thought thunderstorm was coming that night, so my apartment doesn't have hurricane doors. But that's OK, it was very sturdy and a storm never really affected the doors and I hear a roar.
I hear thunder started rambling and then all of a sudden it felt like an earthquake where I was holding the bed and my dog was running around she was very frazzled to the point where the electricity went out and I went to the bathroom to just wash my eyes first and there was no running water.
So I went to the glass doors by the terrorists. I didn't open up the glass doors and normally there's a hotel next door, a boutique hotel that's white, but I don't really see any brightness because of the obstruction of that part of the building that, unfortunately, was demolished.
And I saw nothing and I'm saying to myself, where is my building. I thought I was dreaming. I thought I was in a nightmare. Where is my building? And then I started lighting up scented candles, because it was pitch black and I hear noise outside of my hallway and I see a family that lives catty-corner to my apartment with a flashlight and they said, "Come with me now. The building is collapsing." I said, "Please go. I have a dog. I'm going to follow you."
I didn't want to hold them back. Immediately I was in pajamas and I also looked straight ahead to an apartment I knew the couple well and I see a door open and I don't see an apartment, I see that white building straight through. So I quickly put on my jeans, T-shirt, I grab whatever I grabbed, a phone, charger, water, my dog, a leash and flashlight and I started going down the stairs.
I got to the floor. There was an elderly woman, poor thing, with a walker. And the stairs on my side, on my exit side were already starting to deteriorate. We saw rubble. It looked like it was separating from the stairs and the stairwell and so I didn't want her to be scared, but I couldn't help her. I tried to help her down.
I said, "Wait a minute. I'm going to get help." And I was screaming the whole time. "Don't worry. I'm going to help you." So she would hear me, so she would feel some type of connection and I just went very gingerly down because you never knew if the building was going to collapse any second until I got to the ground floor.
And I see a couple that I recognize and another woman from my floor, acquaintance of mine, that made it down, I guess, before me and that couple was - he had a stick and he was trying to jam the door open, the emergency door. He couldn't get out because of the debris.
So then we had to go in the garage. We were a little concerned because apparently, we were told that it collapsed, but you have no choice and we just have to get out. So it was like Titanic. It felt like the movie Titanic, so we step into the garage and two feet of water. We're trying to find the light. I had a flashlight. I said let's find the light. Let's go. Just find some light, because that will show an exit and we did.
We got to the back of the building and we didn't see rescue people yet and that's when I first saw the collapse from the ground up, which was the most terrifying moment. They're all terrifying, but that was just a shock moment. And then we had to, in order to get out, we couldn't just walk out the front door. We had to climb over vehicles and there was obstruction in the front, in the (inaudible).
So finally, the fire rescue came and they were asking people to walk on the cars and climb over the car to get to the front of the building. So one person climbed on the car but fell in because I guess it wasn't sturdy, after all the debris was falling. So they got a ladder. They helped us. I helped people push up because they had to climb and tired to get up, so I'm pushing people up and they're pulling them over.
And we finally got out and that's when you saw the lights and really the impact of what was going on, there were rescue cars, the flashing lights, the green lights, north of Collins, I mean it was endless. And then you look south and all you saw were hundreds of rescue cars. And they came and triage was working with survivors, I guess, that were coming out the building.
And as soon as you saw someone you knew, you just hugged and said you survived, you're a survivor and not realizing that how many people were just taken down in that part of the building and it was just devastating, absolutely devastating.
BURNETT: I mean, it's just terrifying to hear it. But thank you for sharing it. I mean, it's terrifying to hear it but so important for people to understand. And just to see those small but so important acts of heroism that you saw with so many that you did yourself, and see the greatness of what people are capable of.
SCHECHTER: The people were so kind. Those firefighters, amazing. I just want to let all the firefighters in the country know that I have the utmost respect in how they handle this situation with such care and delicacy in such a traumatic experience.
BURNETT: It's amazing.
SCHECHTER: So, yes.
BURNETT: Well, Sharon, thank you very much. My thoughts are with you as you ...
SCHECHTER: Thank you.
BURNETT: ... try to get your heart and your head around what happened to you. Thank you so much.
SCHECHTER: Yes. I have friends. Yes, it's heartwarming, so thank you.
BURNETT: I want to go now to Matt Roblez who is a Structural Engineer at McNeil Engineering. Matthew, you hear all this and obviously you hear it from a human perspective but also, of course, from a professional perspective. All this means a lot to you.
In this letter that I have and it's a long letter that the board sent and then it's got all the math in the back of why the costs are going up. It notes, "The observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection. When you can visually see the concrete spalling, cracking, that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface."
When you take that together with what you hear from someone like Sharon talking about as a renter, just all the water and the peeling to the extent that she had to have someone in the building help her deal with what the damage to her car from that objects falling down, what do you hear?
MATTHEW ROBLEZ, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER MANAGER: Well, I hear just ignoring all the warning signs, the professionals such as myself come out to a lot of times seeing like this and we try and convince owners that you shouldn't make economic decisions over life safety. And I don't know, I'm not there, but it's unfortunate that this was ignored or it was put off so much. Fifteen million dollars is a lot of money, but what's the cost of a life?
BURNETT: Well, that's the thing and yesterday I was talking to a reporter from the Miami Herald, Matthew, and she was showing me some pictures that were taken 36 hours before the collapse by a pool contractor who had shared them with her. You see standing water all over the parking garage. He told the herald the deepest puddle of standing water was right underneath the pool deck.
And the husband of a woman who is missing in the collapse told the Herald that at 1:30 in the morning of the collapse, his wife called him saying the building was shaking. She was terrified and that she looked out her window and she saw a sinkhole where the pool used to be.
Again, that call was at 1:30 am. The line went dead. We don't know what happened to her yet. When you hear this, as a structural engineer, do you think the pool area could have been part of the cause?
ROBLEZ: Like many of us know that there's no one reason by a why a building causes a collapse, they kind of progress to one cause another one cause another. But I'll tell you something, water itself and water migration into a concrete structure, especially given the solidity of that area is evil. It does a tremendous amount of damage.
And when you see the spalling, when you see the cracking, that is the purpose. One of the purposes of using reinforced concrete is you have a warning sign, you have that sign that something is wrong and to see it go ignored is baffling quite frankly.
BURNETT: And there's a sentence in this letter they say a lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by, but this is where we are now. Matthew, is there at some point there was a point of no return? I mean, obviously, they could have prevented this, but when this letter goes out in April, was it still preventable what happened now or was it inevitable given the speed with which inspections and construction moves that this was going to happen?
ROBLEZ: Well, I don't know enough about it to say definitively but I can say that I have personally been involved in similar situations in parking garages, in particular, where we've gone through and said this is bad. And within a day or two we put up shoring to prevent or mitigate the effects of a collapse.
And it seems to me that just, again, I'm not involved in this but it seems to me if things were that bad, they could have, in April, call the shoring company in and done something to mitigate this. And as you know, you're only as strong as your foundation and watching the videos, I'm of the opinion that it kind of started from the bottom and was progressive on the way up.
So if they had done some sort of shoring from the bottom up, I think they could have, at the very least, mitigated the loss of life and possibly prevented this.
BURNETT: Well, I guess this is an opportunity for other buildings to take action based on what you said, but just horrific that (inaudible) ...
ROBLEZ: Yes. Everybody should, every homeowners association, everything should go through because there's probably these letters all over and there's probably economic decisions made because the severity of this isn't understood because the philosophy of a lot of people is it's so incomprehensible that a building that's been around for 40 years can collapse.
But as you see, it doesn't happen often. In fact, it's very anomalous, but it does happen. I would encourage everybody to go through, look for these letters and make decisions of life safety over economics.
BURNETT: Right. Yes. Because you think if you got this letter and read and it sunk in, you would have been terrified, knowing what you know now, but obviously they didn't.
ROBLEZ: Oh, yes. (Inaudible) ...
BURNETT: All right. Well, Matthew, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
ROBLEZ: Thank you. It's my pleasure.
BURNETT: All right. And next, you've seen him on the show every night since the condo tower collapsed. His mother and grandmother still unaccounted for tonight. But tonight, he's vowing to find those responsible and hold them accountable. Pablo Rodriguez is back.
Plus, a rescuer on the ground says the collapsed bedrooms are under 13 feet of concrete. He's OUTFRONT with the latest on this heroic rescue effort.
And is America about to put masks back on? Growing concern tonight over the Delta variant has officials warning that masks may be in order whether you're vaccinated or not.
BURNETT: We're continuing to follow the breaking news in Surfside, Florida where hundreds of rescuers are digging through the rubble right now. Officials holding a press conference just moments ago, 149 people still unaccounted for, 12 now confirmed dead after one more body was recovered today. The victims' families are demanding answers tonight, about how something like this could possibly have happened. OUTFRONT now, Pablo Rodriguez. We've been speaking with him since this tragedy happened. His mother and grandmother are unaccounted for in the collapse.
Pablo, you are coming on and you are speaking day in and day out because you want answers and you want people to remain focused on the necessity for answers. I know you've been searching for clues and emails that your mother received from building management over the years, combing through those.
What more have you been able to piece together today?
PABLO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER MISSING AFTER SURFSIDE BUILDING COLLAPSE: Erin, thank you again for having me and letting me continue to tell the story and keep focused on this.
I don't have any new information. What we do know and from every piece of information that comes out, every photo that comes out, you see the negligence happening here was over many, many years. I mean, possibly decades. Buildings don't get like that from one day to the next.
This is a condo board that was receiving over a $1 million a year in maintenance fees. So, where were those fees going? You know, no one is saying the entire board is corrupt and the board stole the money, but somebody knows something and the finances should be investigated because there was a lot of money that went in here that did not go towards maintenance.
BURNETT: It's amazing. Your mother received that email we reported on earlier in the show from the condo board, the owners and it just was two months ago warned that the damage to the building had gotten much more severe and said quote the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection, the concrete deterioration is accelerating. Now problem new problems have been identified.
And there is this sentence, Pablo. A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by but this is where we are now. Perhaps the most damning sentence in this entire damming letter.
What was your reaction when you read those words?
RODRIGUEZ: When I saw it, it just kind of confirmed what I suspected. Buildings don't fall down here from one day to the next. So, it just showed that the maintenance that should have been an on going thing over the last 40 years, that's why the buildings collect monthly maintenance fees for the operations and maintenance of the building.
The maintenance was not being done. And so, there is clear negligence there on the part of those responsible and I hope that there is an investigation into it and they continue to look.
I think also, Erin, this goes to show that we need serious reform because these are life or death decisions that are left to lay people that do not understand construction. I don't understand construction.
BURNETT: Right. RODRIGUEZ: I read the report and don't understand the gravity of what it means. You're expecting people to self-govern for 40 years on a building --
RODRIGUEZ: -- hoping that they do the right thing, and if you get any board member that is doing something shady or doing something that's not right, it could jeopardize the entire building without anyone knowing. I don't think anybody thought this building was collapsed. I don't think any board member thought this building was going to come down.
RODRIGUEZ: I'm not saying that. I don't think anybody is really saying that. But there was clear negligence the money was not used for what it was supposed to be used for. And now people have died. That's criminal negligence or not that's for a prosecutor to decide and somebody to make an investigation on.
What I'm hoping for is that there is some kind of reform because individual citizens should not be responsible for trying to understand building codes and concrete work on a daily basis and it has an effect on everybody's life.
BURNETT: So I understand President Biden is going to be visiting surfside on Thursday. That was just announced, Pablo. He's going to be meeting with family members.
You know, what do you want to hear from him and what do you want him to commit to doing?
RODRIGUEZ: It's kind of a hard question, Erin, because I would like for there to be some kind of cohesive overall reform. At the same time, I understand this is more of a state issue. The federal government is limited in what they can do but I think there should be some kind of federal law involved mandating more stringent inspections.
So maybe, you know, leave it up to the states to decide certain factors but there should be an overall governing principle that buildings need to be inspected every 15 years, every 20 years.
Forty years is a lifetime. I'm 40 years old. That's as if I was born and never go to the doctor until I'm 40 and then be like is everything fine for the past 40 years?
RODRIGUEZ: It's crazy.
BURNETT: You know, Pablo, you've been -- it's been an honor of speaking with you every night we've been on the air since the collapse. What is giving you the strength and motivation to continue speaking out? RODRIGUEZ: It's been extremely difficult, Erin, to be able to talk and
do this day in and day out.
And every time I think about, you know, stopping because it's just too much, my wife reminds me like if you're mother was here, she would be the first one in front of every camera and jumping on cars and screaming at the top of her lungs to make sure that this not only doesn't go away but the people responsible are brought to justice but that reform happens so no family has to ever go through this again.
This wasn't an earthquake. This wasn't a terrorist attack. This was a building. People went to sleep and then they died.
BURNETT: Pablo, thank you very much.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And as Pablo asks for answers and demands answers as he should, I want to go to the vice mayor of Surfside, Tina Paul, who was at that briefing just moments ago.
And, Vice Mayor, I appreciate your time.
You know, you hear Pablo Rodriguez, who is grieving although he has not yet heard what happened formally to his mother and his grandmother. They are still unaccounted for. He's frustrated nothing was done about these damages for years. It's clear from these letters that they knew there were problems and something needed to be done and they said this is where we are. I mean, what do you say as all of this comes to light?
TINA PAUL, VICE MAYOR, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: Well, Erin, first of all, I want to thank you for covering this tragedy that our community is going through. We're a beautiful community and we just are devastated what we're seeing and what is happening. These are neighbors and friends.
And what I can say is we're looking into it. We hired independent structural engineering team and we're gathering as much information as we can and they are considering everything and looking at it. In addition to that, I've spoken with the building official and our town manager and we will work on strengthening what is in place now.
I live in a condo, and I spoke with my condo building manager and he suggested that inspections, you know, should be like a five-year plan. So every five years, a building should look at what is going on and what they need to repair and get that done.
It's such a shame and tragedy and I don't know how this happened because I've been an elected official for five years. I did not get complaints about the condition of this building and I do know people that live in that building who survived and four are still missing. So it's of great concern to our community. I can't tell you how much. BURNETT: It is just so terrifying. You know, the email that we
obtained from April, but the condo association, you know, warns, you know, two months ago that the building's decay has gotten significantly worse. They talk about these words like exponential. They do say a lot of this work could have been done in years gone by. But this is where we are now. They say more than doubled the estimate what they think the costs will be.
You know, you say to yourself how could a situation have escalated to a point like this, right? To your point without anyone knowing.
I mean, who do you think needs to be held accountable for this? Because the families will demand and should demand that somebody be held accountable for it.
PAUL: Yes, Erin, I understand that and I don't know who because we don't have all the information of where the ball really dropped and what I'd like to know because you referenced the letter that was sent two months ago, I'm not aware of that letter and I'm curious did that go further than the condo board? Did it reach somebody in the city?
BURNETT: It's a good question. I don't know the answer to that.
PAUL: You know -- right. I've not seen that letter. Just what you've mentioned about it because there was reference to an inspection report from 2018 and I didn't see that, either, as an elected official.
These are things that normally wouldn't come before me. They would go before the building department or the town manager.
They wouldn't come to me unless --
PAUL: -- a resident that received that letter sent it to me specifically and said I'm concerned about my building and sadly, that didn't happen.
BURNETT: No, no, it didn't but this is an important question you raise.
You know, you talk about how you know people who live in the building, who are okay and four who are still missing. I'm so sorry for that as you worry about your friends.
You know, there are some concerns a Surfside mayor may have given family members a false sense of hope. He says he told them about instances where people are pulled from the rubble more than two weeks later and that's true. That's happened. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: A woman was pulled from the ruins of a factory in Bangladesh 17 days after it collapsed. So I think as the governor said earlier, nobody in the -- the lieutenant governor, nobody is giving up hope here. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, Miami-Dade fire officials told our Nick Valencia that may not be a fair comparison because the materials of this condo are different from what was in Bangladesh or Haiti.
Obviously, everyone wants to cling on to hope and everyone is hoping for a miracle and the first responders are in this horrible position of having to say when this mission changes from finding life to not.
Do you have any fear that families are being given a false sense of hope at this point?
PAUL: Erin, I can't say that because I believe in hope. I believe in miracles, and I am hopeful we'll find some survivors.
I think families have visited the site. They know what the situation is. But you cannot give up when you love someone and want to know where they are.
BURNETT: That's true.
PAUL: So, we're not giving up hope as a city.
BURNETT: All right. Vice Mayor Paul, I appreciate your time. I hope that your friends, you know, we all do hope for miracles. Thank you.
PAUL: Thank you very much, Erin.
BURNETT: Up next, more on the breaking news from Surfside. Three million tons of concrete have been removed by the heroic first responder from the scene, 3 million. We're going to talk to a rescuer on the ground. Are there signs of hope tonight?
And is America about to be told to mask up again? L.A. County is now recommending it whether you're vaccinated or not, as the Delta variant spreads across the nation.
BURNETTT: It's been 138 hours since the Surfside condo building collapsed. First responders, though, are still looking for life and in a moment, I'm going to be joined by the commander of the Israeli Defense Forces on the ground there, who's helping with the rescue effort. He says he still has hope. He'll tell you why.
But first, Ryan Young is OUTFRONT.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, rescue teams are still searching through the debris of the deadly south Florida condo collapse for a sixth day. The search getting dangerous for rescue teams as debris started to fall from the building that is still standing.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Those first responders are breaking their back. Trying to find anybody they can and they are going to continue to do that.
YOUNG: More than 800 responders from 60 agencies are on the ground assisting with the search and rescue efforts.
ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE CHIEF: You're talking about 12 stories, subterranean garages, all within the same footprint. I'm trying to emphasize the magnitude of what we're encountering, what we're seeing, and we still keep pushing forward.
YOUNG: Officials say more than 3 million pounds of concrete have already been removed from the debris site. Heavy machinery continues to be brought in to help remove debris, dozens of dogs are on site to do what humans cannot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will search for the person that they can't see.
YOUNG: And the rescue team are the ones who come across the personal effects.
JIMMY PATRONIS, CEO, FLORIDA STATE FIRE MARSHALS: One of the first responders who found a birthday card. Nobody is going to let that get lost. It's so raw. Families are going through such an unnatural set of experiences.
YOUNG: Dozens of frustrated and distraught family members still waiting for updates on their loved ones. At the community center where families are gathered to wait for news, dozens of resources have been set up for them, even therapy dogs on site to comfort families.
DEBBIE TAYLOR, THERAPY DOG HANDLER: And he's just provided a soft coat to cry into or to hug or to say nothing at all, which is really what's best about them is that they just sit there and you don't need a conversation.
YOUNG: Daylight waning for the day, but these rescuers will continue on through the night non-stop as they have for the last six days.
LT. DOUGLAS DUARTE, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: We're trying our hardest 24 hours a day and we hope to bring closure one way or the other, you know. Either by finding their lost relatives or, you know, finding hopefully a live victim.
YOUNG (on camera): Erin, it's been so tough for these families talking to them on a day-to-day basis, they are really heartbroken about what is going on but they have been pleased with the international resources that have come in, especially the Israeli team. That's something they've been telling us over and over again. They are glad to see those men and women here to help out in the effort.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much.
And, you know, you mentioned the Israeli team. The Israeli team is there with a lot of expertise in this came as fast as they could.
Colonel Golan Vach is with the Israel defense force and he's commanding the Israeli rescue team in Surfside.
Colonel, I appreciate your time and everyone appreciates the efforts of your crew. I know you've been around the world at disaster sites. This is, though, one of the most difficult you've ever encountered. Why?
COL. GOLAN VACH, COMMANDER, ISRAELI NATIONAL RESCUE UNIT: This site is very difficult is the collapse from outside in, that's what we are looking for the bedrooms, they are under tons of concrete but I can say that the firefighters are doing a very, very good job right now.
BURNETT: When you mentioned the concrete for the bedrooms, I know that could be 13 to 16 feet of concrete that you could have, you know, that's where people may be, and I know that the disaster site is very dangerous.
How hard is this right now? How risky is this for the first responders trying to get in under all of that concrete?
VACH: I would say that we are talking about risk management all the time. We must find those people. We must find them. So the firefighters and us we are all inside and the engineers are keeping our back, watching our back and we are working from above, from below, from the sides and we are finding people.
Unfortunately, we found few more people the last two hours, not alive unfortunately.
But with our methodologies and our techniques with our fellow Americans, I think we should find more people in the next few hours.
BURNETT: In the next few hours. So let me ask you, Colonel, the hard question here. You say you found a few more people in the past couple of hour. Do you think you found where the bedroom line was? I mean, do you -- is that -- is that what you think happened?
VACH: Yes, yes. Exactly what I wanted to say was when I say we have still hope, which means we are five and a half days from the collapse, what when I'm talking about bedrooms, I mean that maybe people in bedrooms will be still alive because although the site is very, very tight, the pancake has no many free spaces but there are narrow tunnels we find all the time, and we are tunneling and penetrating to these bedrooms, and we are on the sixth, seventh strip of bedrooms that we assume we'll find more people there.
BURNETT: So I think this is so important, colonel, because I know, you know, we don't want people to still have false hope. There are some people who say, well, we should be honest with people, that people aren't alive, but you're the one who has done this, and you're the one saying that now you have not given up hope, that you believe there could still be people alive.
VACH: Yeah. I believe that we can find people alive. Each day that passes reduce chances, of course, but people were found alive in Haiti after two, three weeks. I personally extracted one person alive after five days, and I believe that there is still hope, yes.
BURNETT: Well, on that note, we all -- we all will just hope, hope that you are right. And thank you so much for your unceasing efforts, you and you team. Colonel, thank you.
VACH: Thank you very much.
BURNETT: And next as officials start to recommend Americans put masks back on, whether you're vaccinated or not, the biggest question maybe this: will Americans listen?
BURNETT: Tonight masks are coming back. The Los Angeles Department of Public Health recommending residents wear masks and public indoor spaces, even the fully vaccinated. It's coming as Israel is now mandating people wear masks indoors. And Australia imposing new lockdown measures, affecting 10 million there.
OUTFRONT now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.
So, Dr. Reiner, look, through most of the pandemic, obviously, you were, get the mask on, get the mask on. But when people were vaccinated, right, you were an early proponent of saying, look, the right thing to do here is take your mask off if you are vaccinated because you don't pose a risk to others and it shows people what can happen when you get the vaccine.
Where do you stand now when you think about this variant that's now spreading and these mask mandates starting to come back?
REINER: Hi, Erin. I think these mask mandates are the way to get the unvaccinated to wear masks. We don't really have a way to know right now out in public who is masked or unmasked, right? Excuse me, who's vaccinated and who is unvaccinated. So if we need to get masks back to protect the unvaccinated, we have to mask everybody up.
There is very little risk to folks who have been vaccinated particularly with the mRNA vaccines. Recent data out of the U.K. shows that vaccination has about a 96 percent efficacy in preventing hospitalization against Delta.
But Delta is almost 60 percent more transmissible than Alpha and Alpha was 50 percent more transmissible against the original wild type that came out of Wuhan. And if you are unvaccinated now, this virus is looking for you and this virus can kill you.
So we really need to get all the folks in the way of this virus who are not vaccinated to wear a mask.
BURNETT: So, most Americans have heard of the delta variant, 84 percent of them, according to a recent "Axios"/Ipsos poll. But, obviously, the number of people wearing masks has declined because they've been told they can take them off. Again, I understand the point is if you're vaccinated, but your point is very important, right? Who knows who -- which is which, right?
You've got people encouraged to go to big mass events now, full capacity, Yankee Stadium. Restaurants are packed across the country, packed, it's really hot. The doors are shut, the air-conditioning is on and they're packed indoors.
This is the way America is going. I mean, Doctor, this is my question to you. If they said suddenly, look, people are dying again, we have to put the masks back on, we have to turn this around, is there any way that would happen?
REINER: Well, when hospitals start to fill as they are in parts of Missouri now --
REINER: -- you know, people will start to get the message. Look, you can't have it both ways. You can't be anti-mask and want to keep masks off forever and also anti-vaccine.
If you don't want to wear a mask now, there is a simple solution. Get vaccinated. You are very well-protected from this virus, from all the variants, if you wear a mask. And you won't have to wear a mask.
If you are vaccinated now, you don't need to wear a mask in public. If you are unvaccinated, you are still at risk of dying from this virus.
BURNETT: All right. And just a quick follow-up because you've been making this point on Twitter.
BURNETT: What have we heard from J&J about their vaccine and whether we need to adjust it here?
REINER: The problem is we don't know if the J&J vaccine is effective against delta. We need to know effective it is. People assume it might work, as well as the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has about a 60 percent efficacy against infection, almost 90 percent efficacy against hospitalization, because we need to know because we have two very effective mRNA vaccines.
REINER: And if J&J is not effective, it shouldn't be on the market now. Also, we may need to boost people. BURNETT: That's right, which is crucial. And anyone at J&J needs
Thank you very much, Dr. Reiner. And thanks very much to all of you.
It's time now for "AC360."