Florida rescuers have made the “extremely difficult decision” to finish their look for survivors within the rubble of an apartment house that partially collapsed nearly a fortnight ago, Miami-Dade county mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday. “It is with deep profound sadness … that we made the extremely difficult decision to transition from operation search and rescue to recovery,” Levine Cava told reporters in Surfside, near Miami, adding that the transition would formally happen in the dark.
“At now, we’ve truly exhausted every option available to us within the search and rescue mission.” Levine Cava said eight more bodies had been found within the debris of the 12-story Champlain Towers South, which pancaked on Midsummer Day as dozens of residents slept inside, sending up an enormous cloud of dust and rattling Americans unprepared for such a deadly urban disaster.
That brought the official price to 54, with 86 people still unaccounted for. Levine Cava said investigators would still work to verify whether each of them had been within the building when it collapsed. No survivors are found since the day of the collapse. Dozens of rescuers, engineers, and specialists, including teams from Israel and Mexico, aided in the search alongside sniffer dogs and heavy equipment. On Tuesday officials said 124 plenty of debris had been removed thus far.
Earlier Wednesday, Levine Cava said emergency personnel had been ready to reach new areas within the pile of debris as a result of the demolition of the rest of Champlain Towers South during a controlled explosion over the weekend. Investigations are under thanks to determining the explanation for the collapse. Survivors reported being awakened around 1:30 am (0530 GMT) on Midsummer Day by what seemed like cracks of thunder that shook their rooms.
“It was like an earthquake,” Janette Aguero, who escaped from the tower’s 11th floor together with her family, told AFP. A 2018 report released by city officials revealed fears of “major structural damage” within the complex, from the concrete slab under the pool deck to columns and beams within the parking garage.
In a letter to residents in April, Jean Wodnicki, chair of the condo association, described “accelerating” damage to the 40-year-old building since then, and repairs had been set to start soon. Local authorities have also ordered reviews of other nearby buildings. Levine Cava said rescuers were lucky because the weather had cleared, with Tropical Storm Elsa making landfall on the Sunshine State’s West Coast. US President Joe Biden visited the grieving relatives in Surfside on Dominion Day and praised their resilience.