Authorities in Florida on Wednesday made the “extremely difficult decision” to end the search for survivors amid the rubble of a building near Miami that collapsed nearly two weeks ago, leaving at least 54 dead and dozens missing.
“It is with deep sadness (…) we made the extremely difficult decision to move from the search and rescue operation to the recovery,” announced Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava at a press conference.
«At this point, I really we have exhausted all options available in the search and rescue mission, “he said. The transition will take place formally at midnight.
Levine Cava said eight more bodies had been found in the rubble of the 12-story Champlain Towers South complex, which partially collapsed in the early morning hours of June 24, raising a huge cloud of dust and shaking the entire country, which was not prepared for a urban disaster as well.
The find raised the official death toll to 54, and the whereabouts of 86 people are still unknown, said Levine Cava, ensuring that investigators will continue to work to verify if each of them was in the building when they fell.
Latin Americans from various countries were in the building, built 40 years ago in front of the beach. Among the deceased identified there are at least one Chilean, two Argentines, one Uruguayan, one Venezuelan and one Uruguayan-Venezuelan.
Despite relentless search efforts, which were applauded by President Joe Biden visiting the area last week, no survivors have been found since the day of the collapse, whose causes are still being investigated.
Dozens of rescuers, engineers and specialists, including teams from Israel and Mexico, assisted in the search along with sniffer dogs and heavy equipment.
Earlier Wednesday, Levine Cava said first responders had been able to access new areas in the rubble pile following the controlled demolition over the weekend of the portion of the residential complex that was still standing.
The unstable structure compromised the safety of search and rescue efforts, and represented a greater risk in the face of the passage of tropical storm Elsa Around the area. “We are lucky that the weather improved this morning,” said Levine Cava.
The site was battered Tuesday by high winds and torrential rain from Elsa, which made landfall on Florida’s west coast on Wednesday.
In its 8:00 p.m. (00:00 GMT) report, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Elsa was moving “over southern Georgia, producing gusty winds along the Atlantic coast and very heavy rain.”
“Based on the forecast track, Elsa will move over Georgia tonight, over South Carolina early Thursday, over North Carolina later on Thursday, and near or over the Atlantic coast on Friday,” he said.
Elsa claimed two lives in the Dominican Republic and one in Saint Lucia, according to data from the Caribbean emergency management center. It also caused heavy rains in Cuba, but no significant damage was reported on the island.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism