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Florida Building Collapse: People Need to Stay Hopeful, Rescue Expert Says

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  • "You would be surprised how much people can survive, and that's the case here," Carlos Castillo, who helped develop the Urban Search and Rescue Response System for the United States, told CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith."
  • As of Friday evening, 159 people were still unaccounted for, and at least four people were confirmed dead.
  • The rescuers are using jackhammers, picks, sledgehammers, shovels, and their own hands to dig through the wreckage.

An emergency services veteran on Friday urged the community of Surfside, Florida to not lose hope as rescuers desperately search for survivors following the collapse of a 12-story ocean-front condo tower.

"You would be surprised how much people can survive, and that's the case here. So we shouldn't lose hope," Carlos Castillo, who helped develop the Urban Search and Rescue Response System for the United States, told CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith."

"I had a personal experience, the first time I responded was an earthquake in what was Soviet Armenia, at the time. We rescued a 60-year-old woman who had been trapped for five days, and she survived," said Castillo, the chief development officer for emergency management company Tidal Group.

As of Friday evening, 159 people were still unaccounted for, and at least four people were confirmed dead. The rescuers are using jackhammers, picks, sledgehammers, shovels, and their own hands to dig through the wreckage. They're using different types of scent dogs — including some that can sniff out bodies and others trained to smell people who are still alive. Rescuers also brought in heavy machinery to help pick up huge chunks of concrete and other debris. 

Castillo noted that heavy machinery is only brought into areas that have no survivors, because there is always a risk of a secondary collapse.

"It's done with surgical precision, how they come in with heavy equipment, move whatever heavier pieces of rubble, but the vast majority is moved by hand by rescuers, knowing that surgically they have to get to somebody that may be trapped by part of a standing structure," said Castillo, who had a 26-year career with Florida's Miami-Dade County in fire and emergency services.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava spoke to host Shepard Smith earlier Friday afternoon, and also urged the Surfside community to not lose hope amid the search and rescue effort. 

"Hopefully, we're letting them know that our firefighters have hope. They're there motivated to find people who are alive, and that is what is driving them forward every day," Levine Cava said.

The mayor added that while they're focused on the rescue effort right now, there will be an investigation into the building collapse. 

"Of course, we want to know what caused this, and then, how we can prevent this ever, ever from happening again," said Levine Cava.  

Listen to and follow The News with Shepard Smith Podcast, CNBC's daily news podcast providing deep, non-partisan coverage and perspective on the day's most important stories, on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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