Of the 97 individuals whose remains have been located and identified amid the ruins of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, 81 were found by the Israeli military’s National Rescue Unit—which spent fifteen days digging through the rubble. Wendy Rhodes spoke with the unit’s commander, Lieutenant Colonol Golan Vach:
Vach related how, within hours of receiving approval from the U.S. to join the rescue efforts, his team boarded a commercial flight to Miami. On the plane were fifteen of his delegation’s “best people,” Vach said. They arrived at 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 27, the morning of the fourth day of rescue efforts. And while they were not scheduled to begin work until noon, he said, the team headed straight to the collapse site.
[Vach’s] team did not use dogs . . . but rather a formula that had been honed over almost 40 years. It was expertise developed from responder missions in wars and catastrophic events in Israel and around the world, including in Lebanon, Cyprus, Haiti, Japan, Mexico, Egypt, Honduras, and India. The team had even been on hand to assist during Hurricane Katrina when it flooded and devastated New Orleans in 2005.
So, like attempting to solve the most gruesome of puzzles, Vach’s team poured its sweeping knowledge into studying the pile of concrete, rebar, and assorted building materials along with victims’ consumer goods and personal possessions. . . .
His team also helped family members of the missing arrange travel from places such as Israel, Venezuela, and Colombia, . . . and the Israeli embassy in Washington helped them even further when they arrived in Miami.