A further 14 bodies were recovered from the partially collapsed condominium in the Miami Beach area, bringing the confirmed death toll to 78, the mayor of Miami-Dade County said Friday.
“This is a staggering and heartbreaking number that touches us all very deeply,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference this morning.
Crews have spent the past two weeks searching through the rubble of the ruined Champlain Towers South in Surfside after part of the building crashed early in the morning of June 24th.
On Wednesday, officials said they ended the search and rescue effort and switched to a recovery operation. Miami-Dade fire chief Alan Cominsky said it was not an easy decision because they had “hoped to find more survivors.”
“But our experience and expertise showed that it was no longer possible,” he explained.
Cominsky said switching to a recovery operation would allow crews to make more use of heavy equipment on the pile.
Of the 78 people confirmed dead, 47 have been identified and their family members notified, Levine Cava said Friday. According to officials, as many as 200 people are accounted for, of which 62 are still unaccounted for.
“All those who have gone, all 78, leave loved ones,” Levine Cava said. “They leave broken families. The magnitude of this tragedy is growing every single day. “
Search and recovery teams have removed more than 13 million pounds of concrete and debris. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said he visited the site Friday morning and thanked the teams for their work.
“The pile, which was originally about four or five storeys, is now almost on the ground,” he said.
As officials continue to dig through the site, there are still questions about why the building collapsed. In documents released by officials last month, an engineer expressed concern that the building had “major structural damage.” The engineer, Frank Morabito, said his findings showed there was “abundant cracking” and crumbled in the underground parking garage in the apartment building, according to the 2018 report.
He also said that concrete slabs at the entrance and pool deck “showed distress” and recommended that they be removed and replaced. He said the problems needed to be “repaired in a timely manner.”
The National Institute of Standards and Technology and local agencies are investigating what caused the partial collapse.