Death toll rises to 90 in Surfside condo collapse

Death toll rises to 90 in Surfside condo collapse

Posted: Jul 12, 2021 5:41 AM
Updated: Jul 12, 2021 5:41 AM

The death toll in the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, rose to 90 on Sunday, officials said in a news conference.

Seventy-one of the victims have been identified and their next of kin have been notified, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

There are now 217 people accounted for and 31 others "potentially unaccounted for," she said.

Recovering the victims has been much swifter after the search operation shifted its focus from rescue to recovery. Levine Cava said teams are making "incredible progress," and as of Sunday morning, more than 14 million pounds of concrete and debris have been removed from the site.

Ten additional victims, all of whom were recovered between July 6 and 9, were identified by Miami-Dade officials in a statement Sunday.

They were identified as Maria Gabriela Camou, 64; Julio Cesar Velasquez, 66; Lorenzo De Oliveira Leone, 5; Alfredo Leone, 48; Maria Torre, 76; Richard Augustine, 77; Luis Sadovnic, 28; Edgar Gonzalez, 42; Alexia Maria Pettengill Lopez Moreira, 9; and Anna Sophia Pettengill Lopez Moreira, 6.

The recovery effort is still delicate work, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, telling reporters that search and recovery workers have "even found unbroken wine bottles in the rubble and recovered them."

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky echoed that statement. The process of removing debris is faster for the section of the building that remained standing after the collapse and was brought down in a controlled demolition last week amid concerns it posed a threat to search and rescue teams.

"On the rubble pile where we're still in our search and recovery, it's still a methodical process," Cominsky said. "The crews there, they're monitoring, they're hand digging ... As we're delayering, it's a slow process."

Other personal belongings, like rings, continue to be recovered as well, Burkett said. Those items are being "returned to the site storage area, categorized, photographed and saved for the families."

Recovery efforts have been helped by information on where the victims were anticipated to be inside the building when the collapse happened, Burkett had, calling it "nothing short of incredible."

"It has allowed the search and rescue teams to, on many, many occasions, pinpoint exactly where the victims were ultimately found," he said.

Burkett and Cominsky both acknowledged disappointment as rescue teams have accessed the condo tower's stairwells, which they had hoped would be an area of refuge and perhaps provide the best chance for voids in the rubble where someone could survive.

"The stairwell is always a primary -- the stability of how the stairwell is built, it's hardened better than other areas per se. So with a collapse that's where you have your greatest void space, your greatest possibility," Cominsky said.

"Unfortunately, with this type of collapse and everything coming down ... it just minimized those opportunities."

Saying 'thank you'

Some of the search and rescue task forces that had been deployed to Surfside from out of state or out of the country are beginning to leave, including a team from Israel. Levine Cava said the team would depart Sunday.

Community members, including the families of the victims, gathered Saturday night for a commemorative walk to recognize the efforts of all the first responders who have worked the site of the collapse, particularly the Israeli National Rescue Unit.

Levine Cava presented two of its leaders -- Cols. Golan Vach and Elad Edri -- with keys to Miami-Dade County to recognize their service to the community. They were also presented with badges and made honorary members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

"You delayed and you delayed and you delayed your departure," Levine Cava said. "I didn't even have to ask. You just wanted to be here with us."

Comsinky said a team from Virginia is also in the process of demobilizing, and that teams from New Jersey and Ohio are on "standby" and may begin that process soon. Florida Task Force 1, Florida Task Force 2 and teams from Indiana and Pennsylvania remain on scene.

Analysis shows sister building concrete strength is 'very good,' mayor says

As authorities conduct a flurry of examinations of other buildings in the wake of the collapse, Mayor Burkett said that the analysis of samples taken from the Champlain Towers South sister building, Champlain Towers North, have started to come back.

"Early results on the concrete is that the concrete strength is very good," he said Sunday, "And at or beyond the levels at which it should be."

Experts have been examining the building, which had been evacuated for safety concerns. Burkett has previously said the north towers building is "substantially the same as the building that came down."

The contents and substance of the concrete are also being analyzed, Burkett said, but experts are "constantly" at the building doing visual inspections.

Tests are taking place at different times of day. "Our engineer has said that those buildings are breathing entities," Burkett said, "and what goes on in the middle of the day is different than what goes on at night."

Other buildings in the area will receive letters from the mayor advising them to take the necessary steps to assure residents their buildings are safe, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN.

Regardless of the age of the building, the city is recommending the hiring of an engineer to review structural drawings and review basements, as well as a geotechnical engineer to examine the foundation.

"The recommendations are made in an abundance of caution based on the current status of the investigation," the letter said. "They are intended to serve as an interim methodology to afford residents some peace of mind until the forensic investigation progresses further."

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