At least 20 people have been confirmed dead and 128 were missing more than a week after the collapse of a 12-story Florida condo building, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference Friday morning.
Levine Cava and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez discovered that one of the newly found bodies was from a seven-year-old child whose father works for the Miami Fire Department.
“It was really different and more difficult for our first responders,” Levine Cava told reporters.
“These men and women pay an enormous human toll every day, and I ask all of you to keep them all in your thoughts and prayers. They truly represent the very best in all of us, and we have to be.” there for you as you are there for us. “
Levine Cava said finding more victims is the authorities’ top priority, but plans to demolish the building are moving forward. A demolition could take weeks, she added.
“We will be moving quickly with the decision-making, but it will be some time before the demolition happens,” Levine Cava told reporters, noting that engineers are currently evaluating what the process would look like.
Governor Ron DeSantis also gave additional updates on Hurricane Elsa, noting that South Florida could see tropical storm winds as early as Sunday night. Authorities are currently watching for the potential impact on Miami-Dade County.
Charles Cyrille, director of the Department of Emergency Management, urged citizens to begin preparing evacuation plans, which include three to seven days of supplies for each member of a household. Cyrille added that homes should also be prepared for impact by securing items like trash cans and patio furniture that can easily be blown away by a hurricane.
“It is critical that these preparatory activities begin today,” said Cyrille.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett also briefed on Champlain Towers North, the sister property of the collapsed condominium building. Burkett said arrangements have been made to relocate residents while experts prepare to conduct a forensic study on the structure to assess their safety.
Search and rescue operations were resumed on Thursday evening after a day-long standstill, with authorities hoping to safely expand the search area.
DeSantis added that search and rescue teams for Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will assist the state emergency response teams and prepare for Hurricane Elsa.
Working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), the Royal Caribbean Group announced on Friday that it would provide free accommodation and resources to search and rescue teams on one of its ships now docked in PortMiami.
The suspension of search and rescue operations Thursday morning was due to structural concerns identified by subject matter experts, according to Alan Cominsky, chief of fire in Miami-Dade.
The investigation into the cause of the collapse is still ongoing.
Recent evidence suggests the 40-year-old condominium building showed signs of major structural damage as early as 2018, with one report citing problems with waterproofing under the pool and cracks in the underground parking garage.
A video that was recorded the night of the collapse has also come to light showing water flowing into the building’s parking garage.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, announced Wednesday evening that it had set up a federal investigation team to investigate the cause of the collapse and develop improved building codes.
Former NIST director Dr. Walter Copan, who ran the agency under then-President Donald Trump until January 2021, told the Miami Herald that it could only be a few months for NIST to provide new facts from the investigation.
“Typically there will be an initial summary within three to six months to provide the public with a status update,” said Copan, according to the Herald.
“NIST’s primary role is to provide the public with regular updates on NIST’s technical analysis and the cause of the failure.”
After President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited Surfside Thursday, authorities thanked them for their support.
Aside from visits to first responders and families affected by the breakdown, Biden pledged that the federal government would cover 100% of reimbursements for local governments that are deficient as a result of the breakdown, Guthrie said Thursday.