At least 64 dead in the collapse of a condominium in Florida, 76 missing with hope of survivors "close to zero"
Search teams continue to recover the remains as the search and rescue effort reportedly shifts to a recovery in the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo building on July 7, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
At least 64 are confirmed dead and 76 missing after overnight search at the site of a collapsed Florida condo building was postponed from rescue to recovery, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"The work continues with all speed and urgency, with all task forces deployed from around the country and around the world," said Levine Cava. "We're working around the clock to rescue the victims and close the families as soon as possible."
Two weeks after the collapse, authorities announced on Wednesday evening that they would shift from search operations to salvage operations as hopes of finding more survivors in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida dwindled.
The transition from rescue to recovery took place on Wednesday evening and was marked by a minute's silence in front of the construction site with first aiders and religious leaders, said Levine Cava.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Wednesday that the decision to move to a recovery operation was made after a consensus that "the possibility of someone still alive is close to zero".
However, Burkett said Thursday afternoon that authorities were determined to continue looking for victims.
"We're not going to stop working until they get to the end of the pile and find every single one of the missing members of the family. We have been saying that all along," said Burkett.
Levine Cava added that search teams are starting to collect personal items on the site, such as documents, credit cards, tech gadgets, or religious items. A process is being developed to return items to families and survivors who file missing property reports.
"We're working hard in the coming weeks and months to reunite family members with all kinds of items," said Levine Cava.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] is still investigating the cause of the collapse, Levine Cava said. NIST teams scanned the site with lidar scanners, a tool that uses light detection to measure the exact distance to an object on the earth's surface, and drones to collect images for the probe.
Levine Cava also urged the public to support the investigation by showing any photos or videos related to the collapse to NIST.
Burkett announced the valuation of Champlain Towers North, the sister property of the collapsed condominium building. In addition to using ground penetrating radars on the north tower, engineers and authorities have taken concrete samples to determine the strength and potential salinity of the structure.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said authorities continue to monitor weather conditions after Elsa was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm on Wednesday. DeSantis said a death had been reported after a tree fell on a person and noted concerns about water and modest winds from the storm.
DeSantis added that he and Levine Cava are working to suspend all property tax enforcement. They will be asking lawmakers to waive any Champlain Towers South property tax liability.
Miami Dade Fire Rescue rescue workers embrace after a minute's silence near the memorial to the victims of the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo building on July 7, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.
Anna Money Maker | Getty Images
Levine Cava said Wednesday evening that Miami-Dade County is continuing to conduct a 30-day audit to assess all residential properties over four floors that are 40 years or older and have not completed a recertification process.
Forty buildings were considered as part of the audit, and authorities have identified one building with four balconies that is unsafe, Levine Cava said on Wednesday. Cities like Surfside, North Miami Beach and Miami Beach also conduct their own audits.
Authorities have yet to determine what caused the Champlain Towers South to collapse.
A 2018 report found that the 40-year-old building had significant structural damage, with cracks in the underground car park and waterproofing problems under the pool.
Recent reports also show that the repeal of a law in Florida in 2010 that required condos to schedule repairs may also have contributed to the collapse.