Rescue crews found 10 additional victims in the rubble of the collapsed Surfside, Florida, apartment complex, raising the death toll to 46, officials said Wednesday.
The news comes after eight bodies were recovered on Tuesday, four in the morning and four in the evening, officials said in several press conferences. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday that 109 remained unaccounted for.
The disaster occurred on June 24 around 1:15 a.m. local time at the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small, beachside town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach. Approximately 55 of the oceanfront complex’s 136 units were destroyed, according to officials. Since then, hundreds of first responders have been carefully combing through the pancaked piles of debris in hopes of finding survivors.
Three more victims, Nancy Kress Levin, 76, Jay Kleiman, 52, and Francis Fernandez, 67, were identified Tuesday, according to investigators. In total 29 victims have been identified as of Tuesday evening.
Although officials wouldn’t say when the search and rescue operation will formally transition into a recovery mission, Levine Cava told reporters that the crews will “continue as now to thoroughly, carefully sift through these piles,” looking for “bodies and belongings.” The process is a “very thorough and exhaustive” one, she said.
Crews have hauled away nearly 5 million pounds of concrete from the vast scene of wreckage, but large piles of rubble still remain. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said the rescue workers have been “aggressively” searching for any voids or “liveable spaces” within the debris where there could be trapped survivors but that they are “not coming across that.” No survivors have been discovered in the wreckage of the building since the morning it partially collapsed.
“We’re not seeing anything positive,” Cominsky told reporters on Tuesday morning.
Teams are now able to operate at full capacity and search in areas that were previously inaccessible following the demolition of the remaining part of the building.
Video released by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue on Monday night showed crews working atop the piles, braving the elements as Tropical Storm Elsa approached the Sunshine State.
Prior to the demolition, the search and rescue operation was halted for almost an entire day last week due to safety concerns for the crews regarding the remaining structure. Poor weather conditions have also forced them to temporarily pause working.
The cause of the partial collapse to a building that has withstood decades of hurricanes remains unknown and is under investigation. Built in the 1980s, the Champlain Towers South was up for its 40-year recertification and had been undergoing roof work — with more renovations planned — when it partially collapsed, according to officials.
“The whole world wants to know what happened here,” Levine Cava told reporters on Tuesday morning. “I look forward to learning the truth, as do we all, but I think it’ll be a while before it is understood.”
Burkett told reporters that he has drafted a letter that will be sent to condo boards and building owners outlining “minimum stopgap” measures to ensure their properties are secure.
“The town of Surfside is committed to doing everything it can to ensure the safety and peace of mind of its residents and we are grateful to our county, state and federal partners for all their amazing support,” he said.