Staring into space or sobbing, family members of those missing in the Florida apartment building collapse waited in anguish for news of loved ones, while others scrambled for a place to live after their home was destroyed.
The disaster in Surfside, near Miami Beach, left one person dead and 99 unaccounted for after the collapse early Thursday, with fears the toll may rise much higher.
"Everything is gone," said Erick de Moura, 40, who was at the town's community center trying to find temporary accommodation.
The Brazilian had lived for three years on the 10th floor of the oceanfront Champlain Towers South, part of which pancaked in the middle of the night for reasons yet unknown.
He survived because he had decided to stay at his girlfriend's house last night.
"I am homeless now. I lost my papers, documents, everything. My green card, my money," de Moura said.
"I just came back and the scene is shocking," he added. "There is a lot of pain. I'm blessed that I am alive."
As for his neighbors, "I think they're gone."
These residents had had the best view, overlooking the beach and ocean, until their part of the tower collapsed like a house of cards in the night.
Firefighters, police and search dogs spent the day trying to locate survivors in the rubble. A crane cleared away pieces of debris, while a helicopter patrolled from above.
The rest of the 12-story building was still standing, but all residents were evacuated and several surrounding streets cordoned off.
The survivors and families of those missing gathered a few blocks away at the community center, where volunteers were providing water, coffee, lunches, and clothes, as well as emotional support.
Displaced residents were trying to figure out where they can now live, whether it's with relatives or in hotels which have offered rooms. Others waited grimly for news of their loved ones.
People come and go. Some are seated and motionless, while others are sobbing.
More than a thousand people have passed through the community center, said Ron Ben Hayoun, a 22-year-old volunteer and north Miami resident who had returned to his childhood neighborhood to help.
In this city with a large Jewish community, "we try to help everyone, we are not exclusive."
"It's pretty shocking. people are very emotional," said the young man, who had recently returned from Israel where he did his military service.
A statue of George Floyd was defaced and marked with the name of a neo-Nazi group in New York, police said Thursday, less than a week after it was unveiled.
Police officers said the nearly two-meter-tall monument to the 46-year-old Black man murdered by a police officer in May last year was found covered in paint on Thursday morning.
The inscription was of American far-right cell "Patriot Front," which is thought to have similarly vandalized another Floyd tribute in neighboring New Jersey.
Authorities released a video showing four individuals, one of whom was holding a spray paint can, near the scene of the crime in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn.
The defacements came before the Friday sentencing of Derek Chauvin, the 45-year-old officer whose killing of Floyd sparked America's biggest demonstrations for racial justice in decades.
New York police said they are investigating the attack on the monument.
"I'm going to be absolutely clear with the neo-Nazi group that did this: get out of our state," tweeted New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, adding that specialist agents from the state police force would offer to help the investigation
"We will bring these cowards to justice," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on Twitter.
The wooden statue -- made by artist Chris Carnabuci -- was inaugurated on Saturday in the presence of Terrence Floyd, brother of George.
On the night of Wednesday into Thursday, another statue of Floyd, in front of the town hall of Newark, New Jersey, was also covered in paint.
According to the news site NJ.com, the inscription "Patriot Front" was also discovered there, before the bronze statue, which weighs more than 300 kg, was immediately cleaned.
Newark Police launched an investigation.
Minnesota law provides for a minimum sentence of 12.5 years for Chauvin, who has been jailed since being convicted on three counts of murder and manslaughter two months ago.
But the prosecution has cited Chauvin's "particularly cruel" conduct and called for the maximum of 30 years.
Bones found in an Israeli quarry are from a branch of the human evolutionary tree and are 120,000 to 140,000 years old, scientists reported Thursday.
A team of anthropologists spent years analyzing the fragments of a skull, lower jaw bone and tooth that were uncovered in Nesher Ramla in 2010, comparing them to hundreds of fossils around the world from different eras.
The researchers determined that the fossils likely came from a hominin group closely related to Neanderthals and sharing many of their features, such as the shape of the lower jaw. The scientists also believe that there are enough similarities to link this group to other populations found in prior cave excavations in Israel dating to around 400,000 years ago.
"The teeth have some unique features that enable us to draw a line between these populations," said Tel Aviv University dental anthropologist Rachel Sarig, a co-author of the paper published Thursday in the journal Science.
This group probably inhabited the region from around 400,000 to 100,000 years ago, said Tel Aviv University physical anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, another co-author. He said the remains found at Nesher Ramla are likely from "some of the last survivors of a once very dominant group in the Middle East."
Prior research has shown that homo sapiens – modern humans – also lived in the region at the same time.
Many scientists believe that the arrival of homo sapiens in Europe presaged the decline of Neanderthals there, but the story may have been different in the Levant region — the crossroads between North Africa and Eurasia.
The new findings add to research showing that homo sapiens and Neanderthal-like groups overlapped in the Middle East over a significant amount of time, probably tens of thousands of years.
There were likely cultural and genetic exchanges between the groups, the paper authors suggest. "The Neanderthal story can no longer be told as a European story only. It's a much more complicated story," said Hershkovitz.
Sheela Athreya, a Texas A&M University palaeoanthropologist who was not involved in the study, said the new research "gives us a lot to think about in terms of the history of population groups in this region, and how they may have interacted with populations in other regions, in Europe and North Africa."
The Nesher Ramla fossils "look like something on a lineage heading toward Neanderthal," said Aeric Delson, a palaeoanthropologist at Lehman College in New York who was not involved in the study. He characterized the findings as "fossils of what appears to be an intermediate variety — this group may be predecessors to Neanderthals in this area."
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
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