The Israeli military has come up with a unique set of 3D images of the Miami condo and the surrounding disaster site and then artificially collapsed them to help local rescue authorities to help identify where victims and even survivors might be. The 3D images were developed by Unit 9900, a secret element of the Israel Defense Forces.
Unit 9900 is a highly equipped unit that specializes in gathering geographical data from satellites and planes. A team of rescuers from the Israeli army are helping local authorities in Miami in the rescue operations and are on the scene of the tragedy at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida where 147 people are still missing.
Creating Real-Life Images
Unit 9900 first created the three-dimensional image of the Miami condo to give rescuers a feel of how the building looked before collapse. It then collapsed the condo exactly the way it happened in reality to show them the damage and how people and property remain trapped under the debris.
Capt. Uri Jospe, 36, a reserves civilian population officer, told the New York Post, that it been great help to local authorities to locate things. "Based on what the rescuers are finding, including artifacts, and what we gather from the families, the unit created the 3-D modeling that is very accurate," said Jospe.
The before and after images of the collapse was to give the rescuers an idea of where many may still remain trapped. "So that means that we know that if someone was in apartment X, we can try and find their location now," he said.
The commander of Unit 9900, only identified as Lt. N, said that his team used "advanced technological capabilities" to help the Home Front Command unit at the disaster site.
"We analyzed the collapsed building and built a three-dimensional model of the structure. Our model will allow the Home Front Command delegation to further assist in the rescue efforts and navigate through the rubble more quickly and effectively," the officer said.
"We are grateful for the privilege and responsibility to take part in such an important international effort," the lieutenant added.
In order to get an idea of the devastation and start the search operation, the teams studied the structure of Champlain Tower South while still in Israel and built 3D models of the 40-year-old high-rise, said Colonel Golan Vach, head of a unit of the Israel Defense Forces that excels in search and rescue operations.
The team then carefully replicated the manner in which the tower appeared to have collapsed, in a bid to understand how to excavate the site with the highest probability of finding survivors before finally arriving to Miami.
"We are looking for the bedrooms because people were sleeping," said Vach, wearing a religious skullcap and army green uniform with an Israeli flag patch on one sleeve.
Vach's team then met with the families of the missing to get an idea of where their relatives might have been within their apartments at the time the building collapsed.
"Our purpose is to get the first responder to understand, where exactly is he digging?" he said.
Working with Advanced Technology
The 15 members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) delegation in Florida are helping coordinate two main activities at the scene — assisting the local first responders with rescue efforts, aided by the 3-D mapping, and supporting the families of the missing. "That's how we work, no matter what the chances are, we keep on hoping and we don't assume anything. We are here to find as many people as possible," Jospe said.
Vach said that he had never come across such a disaster zone like the crumbled Miami condo in his more than 20 years of military experience. However, they have been using their advanced technology in the rescue operations.
Vach's team, the National Rescue Unit, reached Miami early on Sunday, three days after Champlain Tower South partially collapsed without warning while people slept early on Thursday.
That said, the Unit 9900 has been the most effective in the entire rescue and search operations so far by sketching and the exact image of the disaster through its 3D imaging.
In Israel, the 3D maps created by members of Unit 9900 allow ground forces as well as fighter pilots to get the full picture of enemy territory even before they head into action, according to the Jerusalem Post. Interestingly, 58 percent of the unit members are women.
On Wednesday, Vach told CNN in Florida that first responders had discovered new tunnels in the debris Tuesday night, which allowed for the discovery of more bodies. Over two dozen of those missing were Jewish and had links to Israel, according to an Israeli official.
The community has not given up hope. At a makeshift memorial near the site, someone left a flower pot with orchids and a message inscribed: "Estelle, stay strong, come home."