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Woman inside Surfside's Champlain Towers recalls horrific moment when she realized something was majorly wrong: 'It was infernal'

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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A survivor from the Surfside, Florida, building collapse disaster says that she didn't know how she was able to escape the tragedy that has claimed at least four lives at the time of this reporting.

What's a brief history here?

A portion of Champlain Towers South collapsed early Thursday morning, its twelve stories pancaking straight down to the ground below.

At the time of this writing, there are at least 159 people who are missing and could potentially still be inside the rubble.

First responders and rescuers continue to comb the debris for any signs of life as the rescue effort enters its third day.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared a state of emergency on Thursday for the area.

What are the details?

Florida survivor Iliana Monteagudo told the New York Post's Lorena Mongelli that the incident was more terrifying than anyone could imagine.

Monteagudo, who lived on the building's sixth floor, said that she awakened in the middle of a night to hear strange noises.

"She initially believed they came from the open sliding door to the oceanfront balcony," Mongelli wrote.

The actual source of the sound was not as innocuous.

"I ran and tried to close [the sliding door], but I couldn't," she said. "I imagine it was because it was unlevel already because of all the movement. I heard a crack, and when I looked, I saw a crack traveling in the wall two fingers thick. Something told me, you need to run."

Monteagudo said that she immediately listened to her instinct and was able to escape with her life.

"Two more minutes, no, no," she recalled. "Not even one. There was no more time. ... When I was running down the stairs, I went from six, to five, and then to four, I heard a tremendous noise. It was infernal. The building was falling."

Monteagudo added, "I don't know how I managed to escape."

Monteagudo said that when she emerged from the front of the building, she was in complete darkness. There was smoke and water everywhere, she added, but she immediately began praying.

"God, help me, I want to see my children," Monteagudo recalled saying. "God, please help me, don't let me die like this."

Building security quickly followed her out and advised that they believed an earthquake had struck.

"[W]e need to go," Monteagudo recalled them saying.

"I lost everything now," she said. "I have nothing. But I have my life, and that's all that matters. With life, there is hope we can start again. ... I just pray for all the others that might be trapped."

Monteagudo was unhurt during her escape from the doomed building, having sustained just two bruises while in flight.

What else?

On Saturday, The Guardian reported that engineers had significant concerns over "major structural damage" during a 2018 inspection.

"A Maryland-based consultant found evidence of a failing concrete slab on the pool deck and 'abundant cracking and crumbling' to an underground parking garage during a 2018 inspection," the outlet reported.

The recommended repair work, according to a report from The New York Times, was never completed.

"The structural report was conducted by Morabito Consultants, which was contracted by the condominium's owners' association to assess the structural integrity of the oceanside complex of 136 apartments," the report continued. "It warned that 'the waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive as well as all of the planer waterproofing is beyond its useful life and must be completely removed and replaced."

The report, according to The Guardian, also warned, "The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."

The reason for the collapse remains unknown at the time of this reporting.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said that the county did not know of the report.

“We are obviously very interested in all of the evidence that's coming to light and we're going to be including it in what happens after the rescue. In the meantime we're taking actions to make sure that other buildings are safe," Cava said.

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