At least 64 people are now confirmed dead while 76 remain missing at the site of a condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida, officials said Thursday, as the search and rescue effort has officially shifted to a recovery operation.
Workers walk past the collapsed and subsequently demolished Champlain Towers South condominium … [+] building on July 6, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Ray Jadallah, the chief of operations for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, reportedly told families of the missing on Wednesday that there was no longer hope of finding more survivors.
A portion of the Champlain Towers South condo that did not collapse on June 24 was demolished late Sunday, which officials say has made it much safer and easier for workers to search through the rubble.
Search crews had occasionally faced snags: Efforts had to be called off for 15 hours last week due to concerns over how unstable the debris pile is, and workers were delayed by a smoldering fire in the rubble after the collapse.
Though it’s a recovery effort now, Miami-Dade officials have said they’ll continue searching until all missing people are accounted for.
“As we speak, the teams are working on that part of the pile that was not accessible before the building was demolished,” Levine Cava said. “Bringing the building down in a controlled manner was critical to expanding our scope of search.”
A massive section of the condo collapsed at around 1:30 a.m. on June 24, just days before the building’s owners were set to start payments on a repair job. The cause of the 40-year-old building’s collapse is still unknown, but there were numerous signs its structure was not in good shape. A 2018 inspection report found “major structural damage” on the building, while photos showed crumbling concrete and leakage from the condo’s pool in the days before the collapse. Another report made by an engineering firm last year “yielded some curious results” after examining the building’s concrete, but it’s not clear exactly what the firm was referring to, according to the Miami Herald. The building was also just at the beginning of a recertification process required for buildings over 40 years old.
President Joe Biden visited the site and promised the federal government would completely cover the cost for the first 30 days of search and rescue operations. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), usually a major critic of the Biden Administration, heaped praise on the federal government’s response to the collapse. “You guys have not only been supportive at the federal level, but we’ve had no bureaucracy,” DeSantis said during the president’s visit.