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Haiti’s President Assassinated, Surfside Rescue Workers, Engineers Studying Collapse, & A COVID-19 Update

Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium on Saturday in the Surfside area of Miami. The building partially collapsed on Thursday.
Lynne Sladky
Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium on Saturday in the Surfside area of Miami. The building partially collapsed on Thursday.

The assassination of Haiti's president. Israeli rescue workers search through the rubble in Surfside. Plus, an engineer working with the team studying why the condo's collapse happened. And vaccination rates in Florida are dragging, while cases are rising.

On this Wednesday, July 7, episode of Sundial

Haiti’s President Assassinated

Haitians and the diaspora in South Florida woke up to shocking news Wednesday: President Jovenel Moise has been assassinated.

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Haitian interim prime minister Claude Joseph announced that a commando-style attack on the president’s home compound began early Wednesday morning and ended with the president being "mortally wounded."

Moïse's wife, Martine Moïse, was also shot at their home in Port-au-Prince and is now hospitalized. The country is now under a state of emergency.

Sundial spoke with WLRN's Americas editor Tim Padgett about the news. You can read his reporting on the story here.

Haiti’s President Assassinated

Surfside Rescue Workers

Officials announced Wednesday that at least 46 people have been found dead. 94 people are still unaccounted for. Ten people have been uncovered in the rubble since Tuesday.

Rescue teams helping search for people in the aftermath have come from all over the world.

Engineers, rescue specialists and even dogs have been sent to help in the efforts. That includes specialists from Mexico and a team with the Israeli Defense Forces. They have also assisted after other tragedies and disasters — particularly earthquakes.

“I haven't seen such a complex building like this one. It's so complicated. I've been to two earthquakes and then you see that the buildings that turn to the side, they fell on their side. It's very rare to see a building that is collapsing inside itself. I didn't see it in my whole life,” said Colonel Elad Edri, the deputy commander of the Israeli Delegation. He joined the show from the site of the collapse.

Edri also talked about how rescue workers like him are working through the toll this kind of work can take on their mental health.

“Twice a day, morning and evening, we have close conversations of all the delegation members and we talk about what we see, what we saw, what we smelled and how we feel, what we experience,” he said. “For example, three days ago, I participated in an action that we exposed [a] body and I shared with my team members that there was a moment — it hit me in one moment — that how fragile can life be because I found a man in his bed, covered with this blanket.”

The delegation travels with officers that are experts in trauma therapy to provide support for the rescue workers. The rescue team plans to depart to go back to Israel Sunday, after handing off their knowledge and expertise to the workers who will continue on the site.

Surfside Rescue Workers
Colonel Elad Edri, the Deputy Commander of the Israeli Delegation helping search and rescue efforts in Surfside.

Engineers Studying Condo Collapse

A new task force has been formed by the Florida Bar Association to investigate condominium law and provide recommendations for changes to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Part of their investigation will include the construction and maintenance of condo buildings, many like the Champlain Towers, which were built decades ago.

Forensic engineers from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology remain at the site of the collapse, examining the catastrophe.

“It's too early to jump into conclusion. But certainly, I mean, we have seen more information,” said Atorod Azizinamini, the Director of the Moss School of Construction, Infrastructure and Sustainability at FIU. “[We are] trying to see what scenario could be contributing to this collapse. But more importantly, our study is more geared toward seeing what changes we need to incorporate in our building codes.”

He’s working with a team of engineers conducting a study and detailed analysis of the condo’s collapse.

Engineers Studying Condo Collapse
Damage at the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, 8777 Collins Avenue, after the early morning collapse in Surfside, Florida, Thursday, June 24, 2021.

COVID-19 Update

This past holiday weekend, large gatherings were back for many people and masks were often not present.

It might have felt like the first "normal" summer celebration in a post-pandemic world, but health experts say that's the problem. The pandemic isn't over yet.

In Florida, vaccination rates are lagging and COVID-19 cases are rising.

“We generally see this happening in young people first and then it starts to pop up in the older [population] and there's been a decline in deaths worldwide. But again, there's been an increase in cases worldwide and that's part of the problem,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at FIU. She is also on Miami-Dade County's COVID-19 task force.

Marty explained the difference between having immunity from a vaccine and from contracting the virus.

She also said COVID-19 vaccines might be available for children younger than 12 years old as early as before school starts in the fall.

COVID-19 Update
Image: VA VAntage Point blog

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.