Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava gives medals of honor to Israeli rescue workers in Surfside on July 12, 2012. (Mayor Daniella Levine Cava) (Mayor Daniella Levine Cava)
Daniella Levine Cava

“They did much more than search and rescue,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

By United With Israel Staff

Miami officials gave a hero’s sendoff to a seven-man delegation of IDF rescue workers on Monday. The Israeli team finished two weeks of grueling work assisting crews looking for bodies in the rubble of the collapsed Champlain Tower.

During a brief ceremony on Saturday evening, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava thanked the battalion for their “unrelenting dedication.” Members of the task forces that have been searching the site 24 hours a day since the collapse lined both sides of the street, shaking hands and bidding farewell to the Israeli team. Two of the IDF commanders were made honorary commanders of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

The El Al plane taking the team back to Israel was also given a water cannon salute.

Also on hand was a delegation of volunteers from Israel’s United Hatzalah. Hatzalah’s six-man team Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit helping families process their trauma and grief.

In an interview with Miami’s Channel 10 News, the mayor effusively praised the Israelis, who arrived three days after the building collapsed.

“They came as quickly as they could. They actually changed in the bathroom of the airport after an overnight flight so they could get right on the pile when they arrived in Surfside,” Cava Levine said.

“The families were very very inspired to have them on site. They did much more than search and rescue. The family support they do extremely well, and it was a great comfort.”

The mayor also praised the Israelis for creating a detailed, room-by-room 3-dimensional map of the Champlain Tower, which helped rescue teams. “We’re talking about working together in the future to bring this technology here,” Cava Levine said.

The Israeli team joined other task forces from around the United States to assist the teams from Miami and Miami-Dade County, working in 12-hour shifts. They have searched through South Florida’s intense summer heat, and in pouring rain, pausing only when lightning was spotted nearby. They also paused operations as officials made plans to implode the still-standing portion of the condo tower on July 4.

Although the IDF mission is complete, the job of searching the rubble for bodies continues. Rescue teams from around the U.S. are mobilizing to provide relief for the crews still in Surfside.

The death toll currently stands at 94, of which 83 bodies have been identified. Another 22 people remain unaccounted for.

Around 6,000 Jews live in Surfside, many of whom are affiliated with the Chabad movement.

Associated Press contributed to this report.



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