Advertisement
Share

Death toll in Florida condo collapse climbs to 95, with 14 people still missing

Flowers and message in tribute to condo tower collapse victim
Flowers and messages of love adorn a wooden heart alongside a memorial wall for the victims of the condo tower collapse in Surfside, Fla.
(Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press)

Exhausted crews neared the end of their search for victims of a Miami-area condominium tower collapse as the death toll reached 95 on Tuesday, with just a handful of people still unaccounted for.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference that the number of people considered missing was dwindling as authorities worked to identify everyone connected to the building. The mayor said 14 people remained unaccounted for, but that 10 recovered bodies were not yet identified — leaving potentially four more victims to be found.

“It’s a scientific, methodical process to identify human remains. As we’ve said, this work is becoming more difficult with the passage of time,” Levine Cava said, adding that it was “truly a fluid situation.”

Of the 14 people considered not accounted for, the mayor said 12 were the subject of missing persons reports and detectives were trying to verify information about the other two.

Twenty days after the disaster, Levine Cava said crews had removed 18 million pounds of rubble from the site. Search crews were taking great care to identify and preserve any personal property recovered, the mayor added.

“They have given of their heart and soul,” Levine Cava said of the crews that had worked around the clock for nearly three weeks. “We are totally walking among superheroes.”

Advertisement

Some residents in the twin tower of the collapsed Florida condo building are too afraid to stay, but others say the sister structure is in good shape.

It will take much longer for experts to figure out what caused the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium to fall into a tangled heap of concrete and steel on June 24. The building was set for its four-decade recertification review when it collapsed.

Engineers and others investigating the cause of the collapse have been identifying key pieces of the 40-year-old building to determine what happened, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

“We’re looking at how the building lines up with what the plans say,” he said.

Those involved in the search for answers include an engineer hired by the town of Surfside, a team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and experts hired by lawyers representing families.

Part of the investigation will include what decisions were made by government building officials and the condominium board, which knew of serious structural problems with the tower as early as fall 2018. Some residents were reluctant to pay assessments in the tens of thousands of dollars for the repairs, leading to acrimonious board meetings.

There is also concern about the stability of Champlain Towers North, a nearly identical building next door built at the same time and by the same developer as its doomed sister structure. No mandatory evacuation order has been given for that building.

“If there were a need to make any changes, they would,” Levine Cava said of the north tower.

Discussions continue with families of the victims about what to do with the collapse site, Burkett said. Some residents who escaped the disaster want the tower rebuilt so they can move back in. Others want some kind of memorial site.

“We want the families to tell us what they want to see,” Burkett said. “I’m looking forward to having those discussions.”


Advertisement