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10 more bodies found in Miami condo rubble as toll rises to 46

Search and rescue workers on Wednesday recovered 10 more bodies from the rubble of an apartment block outside Miami that collapsed last month, bringing the death toll to 46, as hopes faded that any of the 94 people still unaccounted for would be found alive.

The effort to locate survivors of the Champlain Towers South building collapse continued in warm, dry conditions with the threat from Tropical Storm Elsa, battering the opposite side of Florida, having receded.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a briefing that in addition to the 46 confirmed dead, 94 others who may have been inside the building in Surfside when it partially collapsed on June 24 were still unaccounted for.

10 more bodies found in Miami condo rubble as toll rises to 46in addition to the 46 confirmed dead, 94 others who may have been inside the building in Surfside when it partially collapsed on June 24 were still unaccounted for [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Levine Cava, who shed tears as she repeated her remarks in Spanish, said the rescue effort had been made easier by the planned demolition on Sunday night of the half of the building that had remained standing.

“The team continues to make progress in the areas of the pile that was inaccessible prior to the demolition,” Levine Cava said.

As she spoke, a new shift of workers walked by in small groups, wearing clean uniforms and not sharing a word with each other, while a group leaving the rubble pile looked exhausted and were drenched in sweat.

Though local officials say they have not given up hope of finding survivors, no one has been discovered alive in the rubble since the first few hours after the building came down in the early hours of June 24 while many of its residents were asleep.

Asked about whether continuing the search was giving families false hope, Levine Cava said: “They are being supported to come to closure as soon as possible.”

10 more bodies found in Miami condo rubble as toll rises to 46An official said rescuers still have not discovered any new “voids,” or pockets in the rubble that might have harboured survivors [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members about the newly discovered remains on Wednesday morning in a private briefing.

Rescuers still have not discovered any new “voids,” or pockets in the rubble that might have harboured survivors, Jadallah said.

Jadallah told families the work continues to be a search-and-rescue operation and has not yet transitioned to a recovery mission.

“We’re not there yet,” he said.

Later, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky sighed when asked during the news conference if officials were giving families a false sense of hope.

10 more bodies found in Miami condo rubble as toll rises to 46Workers on Tuesday dug through pulverised concrete where the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside once stood, filling buckets that were passed down a line to be emptied and then returned [Courtesy of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department/Handout via Reuters]

“Obviously, it’s very difficult,” he said. “We’ve been exhausting every effort, and that’s where we are right now, is exhausting every effort, and we’ll go from there.”

Maggie Castro, a Miami-Dade firefighter and paramedic, said the families are physically and emotionally exhausted.

“It’s a lot, a lot of emotional roller coasters that they’ve been on, just trying to stay positive and hold out the wait,” said Castro, who has given daily updates to the families.

“There has been a sort of shift, I think, towards acceptance, but also obviously with that comes some sadness,” she told The Associated Press in an interview.

Workers on Tuesday dug through pulverised concrete where the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside once stood, filling buckets that were passed down a line to be emptied and then returned.

The up-close look at the search, in a video released Tuesday by the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department, came as rain and wind from Tropical Storm Elsa disrupted the effort.

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With the threat of a storm, officials and rescuers were concerned about the safety of searching the rubble and the potential for the rest of building to collapse

With the threat of a storm, officials and rescuers were concerned about the safety of searching the rubble and the potential for the rest of building to collapse
The structure was demolished around 10:30 p.m. ET Sunday using a method Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called “energetic felling,” describing it as a process that “uses small, strategically placed explosives and relies on gravity to bring the building down in place.”
The demolition came after part of the building fell early in the morning on June 24, collapsing approximately 55 of the building’s 136 units. Crews immediately began digging through up to 16 feet of concrete and have confirmed at least 24 people were killed, including children. There are 121 people who remain unaccounted for.
With the threat of Tropical Storm Elsa looming, officials and rescue crews were increasingly concerned about the safety of those searching the rubble and the potential the rest of the structure would collapse.
“It appears as though the approaching storm may have been a blessing in disguise for us in that it initiated the demolition discussion,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Sunday night. “We want to make sure that we control which way the building falls and not a hurricane, so all of this together I think ended up being a good thing.”
Burkett said he hopes the demolition will eliminate a potentially dangerous threat to workers and possibly open an estimated third of the remaining pile to search and rescue teams.
Search efforts at the partially collapsed building were paused Saturday around 4 p.m. so engineers could secure the site and prepare for the demolition.
“As soon as the building is down and once the site is deemed secure, we will have our first responders back on the pile to immediately resume their work,” Levine Cava said Sunday night.
When the work does resume, it will be without five to seven members of the Israeli rescue team, Col. Elad Edri, Deputy Commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit said, adding the decision was made based on what capabilities of the team will be needed after the demolition.

Residents ordered to evacuate multiple buildings

Since the collapse, multiple Miami-area buildings have been evacuated.
Ahead of the demolition at the South tower, the condominium board for Champlain Towers East suggested residents evacuate, according to a letter from the condo association’s board of directors obtained by CNN.
The letter encouraged residents to evacuate in advance as streets nearby would be congested due to the demolition. The board also asked residents to take their pets and valuables, including passports and important documents, with them.
“Our building foundation has been checked multiple times, but we make this suggestion in an abundance of caution,” the letter reads. “We do not expect any impact to us but you can’t be too careful under the circumstances.”
On Saturday, the city of Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a residential building out of an abundance of caution after a city inspector looked at an empty unit and flagged a “flooring system failure in that unit and excessive deflection on an exterior wall,” according to city spokesperson Melissa Berthier.
The day before, North Miami Beach officials ordered the evacuation of the Crestview Towers, saying the building was delinquent with its 40-year recertification. Officials cited the late certification report to say the building was structurally and electrically unsafe.
Many residents of Champlain Towers South whose condos didn’t collapse had to evacuate without many of their belongings, leaving behind clothes, valuables and family photographs.
On Sunday, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez III said homicide detectives had been “collecting items that are retrievable, and are logging them and documenting them.”
Any type of heirloom that was safe to retrieve is being documented to “be addressed at a later date with family members,” he said.

24th victim identified

David Epstein, 58, has been identified as the 24th victim confirmed to have died in the collapse. His body was recovered Friday, officials said.
The victims range in age from 4 to 92.
Those who died include 4- and 10-year-old sisters, an elderly couple and the daughter of a firefighter.
Nicole Mejias told CNN on Saturday that five of her family members were in the Champlain Towers South building when it collapsed, including 7-year-old Stella Cattarossi, the daughter of the Miami firefighter. Cattarossi’s body was found Thursday night.
“We just miss them so much already, we wish this tragedy didn’t happen, and will always remember them,” Mejias said.

Tropical Storm Elsa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 15 counties Saturday — including Miami-Dade County — because of Tropical Storm Elsa.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Florida Keys and a tropical storm watch is in effect for parts of southwest Florida as far north as Tampa Bay.
Surfside is no longer in Elsa’s forecast cone, but the area could still receive some rain from the storm.
The governor expressed his support for the demolition plan ahead of Elsa’s impact and said Saturday he believed it would be best for the building to be down before the storm arrives. “With these gusts potentially, it would create a really big hazard.”

Author: Madeline Holcombe, CNN
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