SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - Search and rescue efforts at the Surfside condo collapse site have tragically shifted to a recovery operation.
The tough decision was made after two weeks of rescuers pulling dozens of victims from the rubble with no survivors.
“It is with deep, profound sadness that we made the extremely difficult decision to transition from operation search and rescue to recovery,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
“The fact that we did not get an alert on a K-9, a sensor trip for sound and any visual utilizing our cameras,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Raied Jadallah said. “The last known alert that we received was the initial hours the day of the collapse.”
“Our hearts still hoped to find survivors, but our experience and expertise indicated that was no longer possible,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hopes transitioning from search and rescue to search and recovery will help bring closure to those still waiting for their loved ones to be found.
“I think the waiting and trying to– ‘Is there hope?’ ‘Will we be able to have a miracle?'” DeSantis said, “I think I know it’s weighed a lot on the families. It’s weighed on the whole community.”
As of Thursday night’s update, the confirmed number of dead stands at 64 as a total of 10 victims were located over the course of the day. Six victims were initially found overnight, and by the evening, an additional four victims had been discovered.
So far, 39 of the victims have been identified, 200 people are accounted for and 76 people are potentially unaccounted for.
“Reporting these numbers has not gotten any easier,” Levine Cava said. “Please join me in keeping these families in your prayers.”
Miami-Dade Police identified 58-year-old Gary Cohen as another victim who died in the collapse.
“The work continues with all speed and urgency,” Levine Cava said. “All task forces are being deployed from across the country and the world.”
Among the victims are Frank Kleiman, Nancy Kress Levin, Jay Kleiman and Anna Ortiz. A memorial was held for the family at Temple Sinai in Hollywood on Thursday.
Songs of prayer could also be heard at Temple Emanuel in Miami Beach, which held a Thursday night gathering to offer support for victims and their families.
On Wednesday, local leaders and first responders held a moment of silence in front of the collapse site.
They also walked over to a growing memorial at the Surfside Tennis Center to honor the victims and give respect to the families.
“We all come here as a community to support each other,” said Tiffany Almazan, who took part in the moment of silence.
More people gathered in prayer at nearby St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
“This is a moment that we have to pay respect to the people, unfortunately, we can say that have passed away,” said Jorge Seda, who took part in the moment of silence.
Levine Cava said another moment of silence was held overnight Thursday.
“Our teams paused their work on the pile this morning at around 1:20 a.m. for a brief moment of silence to honor the two week mark since the collapse,” she said. “Let’s pray for the families who are grappling with impossible news and are grieving. May God give peace to all those whose hearts are broken and watch over and care for this community in the difficult days and months.”
The families of the victims are now coming to terms with their loss.
“I have my mother and my grandmother,” said Pablo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is the son of 64-year-old Elena Chaves Blasser and the grandson of 88-year-old Elena Chaves. He said his mom lived at the Champlain Towers South building while his grandmother was visiting her.
“Disbelief, shock, heartache — they were full of life. They loved their family, they loved to travel, they loved the beach.”
Nicole and Ruslan Manashirov were also in the building at the time of collapse. They got married just a few weeks before. Late Thursday, police identified Ruslan as one of the victims they have recovered. Nicole, however, remains missing.
“She wanted her dream wedding, and I’m just happy that she got to have her dream wedding that she always wanted,” said Mylene Padilla, a friend of the Manashirovs.
Rachel Spiegel’s mother, Judy Spiegel, remains among the missing due to the collapse. She said although the search has been labeled a recovery mission, she still has hope, despite the odds.
“This is really just unthinkable,” she said. “We understand that there is a strong possibility that we will be facing life without my mom, and that fear is horrifying. It’s really going to be hard to process and go through.”
Crews continue to search the rubble pile for victims, and during Thursday’s search, they found cellphones, tablets, other personal electronic devices and jewelry. Levine Cava said the personal items will be collected and reunited with the families.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade commissioners have started a probe into what caused the building to collapse. They also aim to know if building codes in the county need to change to ensure safety for high rise buildings and apartments.
“In any building collapse, we would want to understand how it was designed, how it was constructed, how it was modified, how it was maintained,” said Judith Mitrani-Reiser of the Institute of Standards/Technology.
Some commissioners have compared their current probe to the investigation the county conducted following Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
“I was part of the efforts that were done here when we changed the codes, the county codes, the building codes, and we did a hell of a job,” Commissioner Javier Souto said. “I was part of it here, in this board, in those days after Hurricane Andrew.”
The Town of Surfside has hired an engineering firm based out of Washington to make recommendations. They helped the Pentagon investigation and analysis following the 9/11 attacks and also helped with the Florida International University bridge collapse.
The recommendations have been laid out for all buildings east of Collins Avenue, which encompasses all beachfront buildings in the town.
Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.