Two weeks after the disaster, a building collapse on June 24 in Surfside, Florida left a total of sixty people dead, local authorities said Thursday.
On Wednesday, the emergency services decided to end the search for survivors, while 80 people remain potentially missing. Searching the rubble heap of what was a 12-story waterfront building did not find any living victims except a teenage boy hours after the collapse.
“We still pray for a miracle”
But “we still pray for a miracle,” said Thursday the mayor of the small town of 6,000 inhabitants, Charles Burkett, assuring that he had “not given up all hope”. On the 15th day of operations, rescuers observed a brief moment of silence at 1:20 am, the time at which part of the building collapsed. “The work continues with all the speed and urgency needed,” said Daniella Levine Cava, mayor of Miami-Dade County, which encompasses Miami and Surfside.
“We are working 24 hours a day to find victims and allow families to mourn as quickly as possible,” she added during a press briefing. Police officers and forensic experts are tasked with identifying bodies or human remains in order to be able to alert relatives of victims. Daniella Levine Cava pointed out that rabbis are cooperating with the police to recover the remains of victims in respect of their religion, while Surfside has a large Jewish community.
Hundreds of tons of debris
Rescuers also put aside personal items, identity documents, photo albums, school certificates, jewelry, wallets, cell phones, tablets and weapons. She called on the relatives of the victims to “report these missing items, and we will work in the coming weeks or months to get the families back.”
At least 124 tonnes of debris was removed from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South building, which partially collapsed in a still largely unexplained way, even though the building’s structure appeared to be degraded in places. The rest of the building, with the instability considered dangerous, was the subject of a controlled demolition Sunday evening, which allowed the teams to progress in areas of excavations until then inaccessible.