The Charlotte Observer

Search in building’s rubble to take weeks; death toll at 90


Authoritie­s searching for victims of a deadly building collapse in Florida said Sunday they hope to conclude their painstakin­g work in the coming weeks as a team of first responders from Israel 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. Among them are 71 bodies that have been identified, and their families have been notified, she said. Some 31 people remain 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 backlayer after layer of debris in search of bodies. The unrelentin­g search has resulted in the recovery of over 14 million pounds of concrete and debris, Levine Cava said.

Miami-Dade Fire Chief

Alan Cominsky said it was uncertain when recovery operations would be completed because it remains hard to know when the final body would be found.

When the recovery phase began Wednesday, officials were hoping it could be done within three weeks. In an interview Sunday morning near the site, Cominsky said it might now be as few as two weeks, based on the current pace of work.

“We were looking at a 14-day to 21-day timeframe,” he said, adding that the timeline remained “a sliding scale.”

Surfside Mayor Charles

Burkett stressed the care that rescue workers are taking in recovering not only bodies but also the possession­s of the victims.

“It doesn’t get any less difficult, and finding victims – that experience doesn’t change for our search and rescue folks,” he said. “It takes a toll, but you’ve got to love the heart that they’re putting into this and we’re very grateful.”

On Saturday night, members of the community walked along Collins Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfa­re, to celebrate the crews that have come from across the country – and as far as Israel and Mexico – to help in the rescue, and now recovery, effort.

Members of the crews that have been searching the site 24 hours a day since the collapse lined both sides of the street, shaking hands and bidding farewell to the Israeli team.

Task forces from around the United States joined to assist first responders from Miami and MiamiDade County, working in 12-hour shifts. They have searched through South Florida’s intense summer heat, and in pouring rain, pausing only when lightning was spotted nearby. They also paused operations as officials made plans to implode the stillstand­ing 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 gathered informatio­n from families of the missing, many of who were Jewish, to build a roomby-room model laying out where people would have been sleeping during the pre-dawn collapse.

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.

 ?? LYNNE SLADKY AP file ?? Crews work in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo on June 29 in Surfside, Fla.
LYNNE SLADKY AP file Crews work in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo on June 29 in Surfside, Fla.

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