How recovery efforts for Florida’s condo collapse are similar to 9/11

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Recovery efforts at the site of the Florida tower collapse are similar to work on The Pile after 9/11 — painfully slow because of the mounds of heavy debris being sifted through for possible survivors, experts say.

“There’s a tremendous amount of similarities in the rescue efforts,’’ said Tom Von Essen, New York City’s fire commissioner when the Twin Towers fell in Manhattan in 2001.

“The firefighters and rescuers are going through the same thing we went through after Sept. 11,’’ he said of the scene in Surfside near Miami Beach, where a 12-story condominium building collapsed Thursday, leaving at least 10 confirmed dead and another 151 people still missing.

“It’s so complicated,’’ Von Essen told The Post on Monday of the recovery operation.

“The process is painstakingly slow and deliberate to prevent the concrete and steel from shifting. You have 12 huge pieces of concrete that are the size of floors. … There are very large pieces of concrete that are full of steel. It’s very, very heavy.”

Anthony Carbonetti, who was chief of staff to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani during 9/11, said workers must be careful not to harm potential survivors under the rubble — or themselves.

“You may suffer casualties looking for survivors,” he told The Post.

“There’s instability at the site. You’re looking to find people protected in a steel covering or under a beam.

“When you lift the debris, the ground underneath you is likely to shift. These rescuers, God bless, them, are doing heroic work to find survivors. It’s a dangerous job.”

Von Essen said it’s not just the weight of the debris that brings hazards. Blazes can break out at such sites as they did in the rubble of the Florida tragedy, likely fueled at least partly by gas in crushed cars — presenting a Catch-22 situation.

“You use the hoses to put fires out, and you have to worry about drowning people,’’ Von Essen said.

He told The Post last week that fumes from such burning rubble can harm rescue teams, too.

“They’re trying to do the impossible — saving people,’’ he said Monday of the workers.

Florida officials have hailed the rescue teams — including international contingents from Israel and Mexico — working at the site of the tower collapse.

“It’s been an incredibly hazardous environment,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press briefing Monday.

A local fire official defended the pace of the operation, insisting, “It’s not an issue of, we can just attach a couple of cords to a concrete boulder and lift it and call it a day.

“We’re talking about pulverized concrete. We’re talking about steel,” said Miami-Dade County Assistant Fire Chief of Operations Raide Jadallah. “Every time there’s an action, there’s a reaction.’’

He noted that a worker fell 25 feet while working in the rubble Sunday.

Still, it is understandable that the recovery operation seems to crawl at a snail’s pace to the families of those missing, Von Essen said.

“The longer it goes on, the fewer survivors you have — that’s a fact,” the former fire official said. “It takes way too long for the loved ones. They get angry. We saw this during Sept. 11.

“It’s a long process and emotional process for the firefighters, rescuers and family members.

“They’re doing a great job considering,” he said of the workers. “They certainly have all the resources they need.’’

The former fire chief noted that while “the magnitude’’ of the Florida tower collapse “doesn’t compare’’ to that of the WTC catastrophe, he was still amazed at last week’s disaster.

“I’ve never seen a building in the United States fall naturally like that,” Von Essen said.
“I’ve never seen anything like that other than the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing.”

Carbonetti added, “There’s nothing that will ever compare to Sept. 11 — [Florida] wasn’t attack on the homeland.

“But the Miami building collapse is horrific for those involved. It’s sad to watch.”

A federal agency created after 9/11 and tasked with probing such disasters, with an eye toward improving building codes and practices, is considering launching an investigation into the Florida tragedy, a report has said.

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