By Ted Scouten

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s an agonizing wait for families as they desperately seek news about their loved ones who lived in Champlain Towers South which partially collapsed last week.

They’ve given DNA samples to help identify the bodies or remains found in the rubble.

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Some want to go to the scene to help in the search, but that has been deemed too dangerous. Others just want to go there to be close to where rescuers are searching for their family or friends.

Surfside Mayor Gary Burkett said they are making plans for families to visit at or near the site so they can pray for their loved ones and absorb what has happened.

Mike Noriega’s 92-year old grandmother Hilda lived in the building.

“She is the most vibrant, energetic person that I know. She lives for her faith, her family, her friends, definitely in that order. She’s crazy about her family, and very, very social, probably the most popular person that I know,” he said.

WATCH: Joan Murray spoke with Mike Noriega about his grandmother Hilda


 

Noreiga said he got a call about the collapse last Thursday.

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“We rushed to the scene. When we saw really what happened with this collapse, we just kind of broke down and all that. My grandmother, my father’s mother, was somewhere underneath that rubble. We just we couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Hilda Noriega is the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega.

Mike Noriega said when they went to the site right after it happened, his father found a birthday card for Hilda in the rubble. He added that he’s dealing with the situation as best as he can.

“One of my favorite quotes is by CS Lewis. He said that you don’t have a soul, you are a soul, what you have is a body of work. And, you know, my grandmother, she definitely was a very powerful sort of soul. If she’s underneath that rubble alive, it’ll be a miracle of the ages. If she’s not, I know that her soul is in heaven. So there’s a part of us that that has peace. We don’t have closure, right now, but this is really where our faith is being tested. We’re really trusting God with the situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, a team from Israel is at the site to assist in the search and rescue operation.

“It’s a difficult site, we call it a site in Israel, with the pancaking it’s very tight but we’ve seen it before. Ten years ago I found a man in similar circumstances alive in Haiti in 2010. We saved him, he was 64 years old,” said Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli team.

The Israeli defense force sent the team after talks between Governor Ron DeSantis, the Israeli Prime Minister, and Israel’s Minister of Defense. The team was requested by some Surfside residents.

“One of the questions from the residents was pretty poignant. They wanted to know if the Israeli team thought that the Miami-Dade team had been doing the right thing. The commander from the Israeli team did not hesitate to say they would be doing exactly the same thing, which was a beautiful validation of the state of the art techniques and the integrity, energy, enthusiasm, and dedication we have with our team members here,” said Surfside Mayor Gary Burkett.

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DeSantis said he welcomes the help.

Ted Scouten