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‘Our hearts are bleeding’: prayers for Australian couple in Miami building collapse

Mr Waks said a makeshift reunification centre has been set up in a nearby hotel to protect the victims’ families from the midsummer Florida heat.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before I was standing there yesterday, people were literally coming out with pots and pans and things that they were making to bring to the rescue workers,” he said.

While the effort to find survivors has been largely fruitless, a small hand waving through the wreckage soon after the collapse was one rare story of hope.

Nicholas Balboa was walking his dog on the beach when he heard the rumbling he thought was thunder, he said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. Sensing something was wrong, he dropped off his dog and hurried back outside.

Residents were flooding the streets and pointing at a gaping hole and dust cloud where a seaside condominium tower had collapsed. Fire and rescue crews had not yet arrived, and it was eerily quiet on the back side of the building. As he began to take photos of the wreckage, he heard what sounded like a child’s voice.

Balboa, 31, climbed through a pile of glass and rebar in his flip-flops, desperate to get closer.

“Keep yelling so I can follow your voice,” Balboa said. He soon saw a hand waving from the rubble.

The boy, Jonah Handler, said he and his mother, Stacie Fang, were the only ones in the apartment that had imploded when part of the building went down. He kept asking about his mother. Balboa and a stranger tried desperately to clear away the rubble surrounding Jonah but it was too heavy. It looked like a wall or support beam, Balboa said.

Stacie Fang, the first confirmed victim of the Miami tower collapse, with her song Joshua, whose rescue was caught on camera.

Stacie Fang, the first confirmed victim of the Miami tower collapse, with her song Joshua, whose rescue was caught on camera. Credit:Facebook

“I’ll be right back. I’m going to get help,” Balboa said, trying to comfort the boy.

“Please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me,” the boy cried.

“He was absolutely terrified. The sheer terror in his voice, that fact that his mother, that he can’t find her,” said Balboa, who was in town from Arizona visiting his father.

Video of Jonah’s rescue has played on repeat in the news, tugging hearts as rescuers with flashlights slowly helped him out from under a pile of cement and twisted steel and carried him away on a stretcher.

Asked about his condition, Lisa Mozloom, a friend of the family said, “He will be fine. He’s a miracle.” Mozloom said Jonah had been taken to the hospital at one point but said he was “stable”.

Authorities have said at least four people died in the building collapse, and with 159 still unaccounted for they fear the death toll will rise sharply. They have not publicly released the identities of the deceased, but Mozloom confirmed Fang’s death.

“There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,” members of her family said in a statement that Mozloom released on their behalf. They said they were deeply grateful to those who had reached out and that “the many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time”.

The family requested privacy “on behalf of Stacie’s son, Jonah,” saying they would all need time to “to grieve and to try to help each other heal”.

Balboa said he was heartbroken to learn of Fang’s death.

“I lost my mom recently, so I know how it’s going to be,” he said.

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