Friday, January 28

Death toll rises to 90 in Miami condo collapse as search for victims continues | Miami condo collapse

Authorities searching for victims of a deadly condo collapse in Florida said Sunday they hope to wrap up their hard work in the coming weeks when a team of Israeli first responders departed the site.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 90 deaths have now been confirmed in last month’s collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South in Surfside, up from 86 the day before. Among them are 71 bodies that have been identified and their families have been notified, he said. Some 31 people are still listed as missing.

The Miami-Dade Police Department said three young children were among those recently identified.

Crews continued to search the remaining pile of rubble, peeling off layer after layer of rubble in search of corpses. The relentless search has resulted in the recovery of more than 14 million pounds (approximately 6.4 million kg) of concrete and rubble, Levine Cava said.

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said it was unclear when recovery operations would be completed because it remains difficult to know when the final body will be found.

When the recovery phase began on Wednesday, officials hoped it could be done in three weeks. In an interview Sunday morning near the site, Cominsky said it could now be as little as two weeks, depending on the current rate of work.

“We were looking at a 14 to 21 day window,” he said, adding that the schedule was still “a sliding scale.”

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett highlighted the care rescuers are taking in removing layers of debris in hopes of recovering not only the bodies but also the possessions of the victims. He said the work is so delicate that teams have found intact wine bottles in the rubble.

“It doesn’t get any less difficult and finding victims, that experience doesn’t change for our search and rescue people,” he said. “It comes at a price, but you have to love the heart they are putting into this and we are so grateful.”

On Saturday night, community members walked down Collins Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare, to celebrate the crews that have come from all over the country, and from Israel and Mexico, to assist in the rescue effort and now recovery. The Israeli search and rescue team arrived in South Florida shortly after the building collapsed on June 24 and was heading home on Sunday.

Crew members who have been searching the site 24 hours a day since the collapse lined both sides of the street, shaking hands and saying goodbye to the Israeli team.

The Israeli team joined other task forces across the United States to assist first responders in Miami and Miami-Dade County, working 12-hour shifts. They have searched through the intense South Florida summer heat and pouring rain, stopping only when they saw lightning nearby. They also halted operations when officials made plans to implode the still-standing portion of the condo tower on July 4.

The Israeli team used blueprints of the building to create detailed 3D images of the disaster site to aid in the search. They also collected information from the families of the missing, many of whom were Jewish, to build a room-by-room model indicating where people would have been sleeping during the collapse before dawn.

Levina Cava said Saturday night’s memorial walk was “a beautiful moment.” She gave the Israeli commander and colonel the county keys, the first two given as mayor.

Four teams from Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania are still dedicated to the recovery effort, Cominsky said. Teams from Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio are preparing to leave.

“To give you an answer when we feel like we will get everyone back, I can’t give you an exact date,” the fire marshal said. “We are doing everything we can, everything we can, until we feel like we have delayed every floor.”

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