Search and rescue team members gather in Surfside, Florida for a moment of silence and prayer on July 7, 2021 at the Memorial to the Victims in the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo building. The search and rescue effort is reported to be turning into a salvage operation, and officials say the death toll has risen to 46, of which 94 are not yet known. (Photo by Jose A Iglesias – Pool / Getty Images)
Jose A. Iglesias | Getty Images
At least 60 are confirmed dead and 80 missing after overnight search at the site of a collapsed Florida condo building was postponed from rescue to recovery, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference Thursday morning.
“The work continues with all speed and urgency, with all task forces deployed from around the country and around the world,” said Levine Cava. “We’re working around the clock to rescue the victims and close the families as quickly as possible.”
Two weeks after the collapse, authorities announced on Wednesday evening that they would shift from search to salvage as hopes of finding more survivors in the rubble of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida dwindled.
The transition from rescue to rescue took place on Wednesday evening and was characterized by a minute’s silence in front of the construction site with first aiders and religious leaders, said Levine Cava.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Wednesday that the decision to move to a recovery operation was made after a consensus that “the possibility of someone still alive is close to zero”.
Levine Cava added that search teams are starting to collect personal items on the site, such as documents, credit cards, tech gadgets, or religious items. A process is being developed to return items to families and survivors who file missing property reports.
“We’re working hard over the coming weeks and months to reunite family members with all kinds of items,” said Levine Cava.
Burkett announced the valuation of Champlain Towers North, the sister property of the collapsed condominium building. In addition to using ground penetrating radars on the north tower, engineers and authorities have taken concrete samples to determine the strength and potential salinity of the structure.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said authorities continue to monitor weather conditions after Elsa was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm on Wednesday. DeSantis said a death had been reported after a tree fell on a person and raised concerns about the water and moderate winds of the storm.
DeSantis added that he and Levine Cava are working to suspend all property tax enforcement. They will ask lawmakers to waive any Champlain Towers South property tax liability.
Rescue workers from Miami Dade Fire Rescue embrace after a minute’s silence near the memorial to the victims of the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South Condo building on July 7, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.
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Levine Cava said Wednesday evening that Miami-Dade County is continuing to conduct a 30-day audit to evaluate all residential properties over four floors that are 40 years or older and have not completed a recertification process.
Forty buildings were considered as part of the audit, and authorities have identified one building with four balconies that is unsafe, Levine Cava said on Wednesday. Cities like Surfside, North Miami Beach and Miami Beach also conduct their own audits.
Authorities have yet to determine what caused the Champlain Towers South to collapse.
A 2018 report found that the 40-year-old building had significant structural damage, with cracks in the underground parking garage and waterproofing problems under the pool.
Recent reports also show that the repeal of a law in Florida in 2010 that required condos to schedule repairs may also have contributed to the collapse.