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Family members cling to hope for survivors after Surfside condo building collapse

“We’re not going to give up,” said Sally Noriega, who has been praying for the rescue of her mother-in-law.

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Families and friends are still clinging to hope that their loved ones may be found alive nearly a week after the collapse of a Miami Beach-area condo building.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Sally Noriega, who has been praying for the rescue of her mother-in-law, who was in the Surfside, Florida, condominium last Thursday. “We have faith in God above, and that if she’s still trapped in the rubble that they will find her.”

The search for survivors entered its sixth day Tuesday. There have been no rescues since early Thursday, shortly after Champlain Towers South collapsed into a pile of rubble.

Image: Partial collapse of residential building in Surfside
People attend a vigil in honor of residents of a partially collapsed residential building in Surfside, near Miami Beach, on June 28, 2021.Marco Bello / Reuters

Twelve people are confirmed dead and 149 people remain unaccounted for, as of Tuesday evening. First responders continue to operate in search-and-rescue mode and have not yet shifted to recovery.

About 250 emergency rescuers sifted through the rubble Tuesday, Miami-Dade fire officials said.

Rescue worker Adam Hayward said that the work is sometimes frustrating, but that he remains motivated by remembering that someone could still be alive under the rubble.

"Honestly, what keeps us going is the fact that somebody could be there," he told NBC News. "If that was my family, I'd be digging nonstop. So we're going to keep working and keep digging in the hope that the slab we move leads to something else."

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said he also is hopeful the continued search will lead to a favorable outcome.

He said the search "should go on until we pull every last person out of there and reunite them with their family.”

Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building on June 29, 2021 in Surfside, Fla.Chandan Khanna / AFP - Getty Images

Asked about not having found anyone alive since early in the rescue operation, Burkett said, “Well, I guess we haven’t looked in the right place yet."

Even as their frustration with the slow pace of the rescue effort grows, some family members say they won't stop believing that reunions are possible.

Many relatives were allowed near the collapsed site Monday, where they shouted out the names of loved ones, hoping their voices could inspire or lift the spirits of those trapped amid the rubble.

“We are just waiting for answers. That’s what we want,” Dianne Ohayon told NBC South Florida. Her parents, Myriam and Arnie Notkin, were in the building.

“It’s hard to go through these long days and we haven’t got any answers yet,” she said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said the trip provided a little relief for people.

“So many of them got solace from that and were able to see that they (first responders) are doing everything that they can,” she said. “As long as search and rescue teams are telling me that there’s a possibility of finding someone alive, then we have to just keep moving.”

At a makeshift memorial a few blocks from the building, emotions ran high. Crying uncontrollably, Ana Costa paced back and forth in front of pictures of the missing.

“I’m frustrated,” said Costa, 59, who moved from the condo building two months ago and knows people who are now unaccounted for.

Ana Costa visits a makeshift memorial at the site of a collapsed building in Surfside, Fla., on June 28, 2021. Some of Costa's friends are among those still unaccounted for days after the building fell.Deon J. Hampton / NBC News

She said she understands rescue workers are doing what they can to bring back her friends.

“They’ve tried all of their best, day and night," Costa said. "They are doing all that they can and more.”

She said that there’s a small chance her friends may be alive, but that she’s leaving it in the hands of a higher power.

“God,” she said. “God can answer.”

Noriega, too, is leaning on her faith as she waits for word on her mother-in-law.

"If she’s already gone on, then she’s with the Lord above," she said. "Our faith and our hope are sustaining us.”