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Surfside Collapse Search Takes Physical & Emotional Toll On First Responders

SURFSIDE (CBSMiami) - As the first full day of search and recovery wrapped up at the site of the condo collapse in Surfside, the emotional impacts are starting to weigh on more than just family members.

"From the time we start at 12 noon, which is our rotation set time, a time we get off that pile to rotate, it is nothing but hard work," said Florida Task Force Two member Michael McNally, he's among the first responders searching for victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse.

"We're digging through rubble, we are using K9 search dogs that are helping us to locate areas, we're using mapping from the Israelis, we've been following debris, we are digging with our hands and heavy machinery," added McNally.

Through that effort on day 15 crews recovered an additional five people, bringing the total number of confirmed fatalities to 64, with 76 still missing. The process of search and recovery has had an emotional toll on those doing the work.

"We say that we're strong, as first responders we are known to be the ones that have all the answers. We're known to be the ones that come up with the solutions. Who do we go to when we need some answers, when we're battling with something," said Angela Berry, who is part of the Peer Support Program, which was developed to help those working to search and recovery cope with the emotional and physical strain of the effort.

"Sometimes that can be overwhelming, so just letting them know we're here if you need a space to talk," added Berry.

That support includes touching base with each and every crew member daily.

"Making sure that they're well, making sure that they've gotten sleep, enough to eat, and more than anything else, letting them know that the community's behind them as they're doing an incredibly difficult job," said Peer to Peer Counselor Rosaera Diaz.

She adds their key goal is to make sure all the crew members have the emotional support they need.

"These procedures are put in place for good mental health. We want our first responders to go on and live healthy lives. The same thing we want for construction workers or the people on the cranes, we want them to be able to see tomorrow in a positive way again", added Diaz.

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