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Three Members of Indian American Family Unaccounted For in South Florida Building Collapse

Three Members of Indian American Family Unaccounted For in South Florida Building Collapse

An Indian American family is among those missing in the June 24 deadly partial collapse of a South Florida residential building. Vishal Patel, his wife Bhavna Patel, and their 1-year-old daughter Aishani Patel are still unaccounted for as the search at the Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside continues. Surfside is a town of 6,000 people around seven miles north of Miami Beach.

At least 159 people were unaccounted for June 26, two days after the collapse of part of a 12-story residential building. Search and rescue teams have been feverishly scouring the site since shortly after 55 of the building’s 136 units fell. Four people are dead. A video released by the Miami Dade Fire and Rescue department showed a rescue team accessing a car park underneath the building, wading through water.

As per a report in The Guardian, Bhavna Patel, originally from the U.K., has both British and U.S. citizenship. “We are supporting the family of a British woman following the residential building collapse in Miami and our consulate in Miami is in contact with the local authorities conducting the search and rescue operation,” the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) told The Guardian on June 25. 

Their niece Sarina Patel told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Bhavna Patel is four-months pregnant. She said she last spoke to her family on Father’s Day. “I had actually called them to tell them I had just booked a flight to come visit because they’ve been asking me to come see their home and to meet their daughter. I haven’t met her due to the pandemic.” They were home at the time the collapse took place, Patel told Cuomo.

Vishal Abash, a friend of the Patel family, told Sky News that the Patel were “angels. Now maybe God has come to reclaim his angels.”

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According to Sky News, the families of around 40 to 50 of the unaccounted for have been gathering at a community center in Surfside. 

Meanwhile, Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University told Sky News that the apartment block, which was built on reclaimed wetlands, was determined to be structurally unstable a year ago. He told the British television news channel that he identified in a study in 2020 “that the building had been sinking by 2mm a year in the 1990s, changes which could impact the stability of its foundations.”

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