SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - Rescue crews have uncovered two more bodies at the site of the partial condominium building collapse in Surfside, increasing the death toll to 11, officials said.
Late Monday morning, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said a 10th body was found. Just after 6:30 p.m., she provided another update saying first responders located another body, bringing the total to 11.
“Over the past few hours, our first responders did recover another victim,” she said.
Miami-Dade Police Monday night identified three more victims of the partial collapse.
So far, police have identified 11 of the victims:
- 54-year-old Stacie Fang
- 54-year-old Manuel Lafont
- 83-year-old Antonio Lozano
- 79-year-old Gladys Lozano
- 80-year-old Leon Oliwkowicz
- 26-year-old Luis Bermudez
- 46-year-old Anna Ortiz
- 74-year-old Christina Beatriz Elvira
- 55-year-old Frank Kleiman
- 52-year-old Marcus Guara
- 50-year-old Michael Altman
The mayor also reiterated her commitment to conduct a thorough investigation into the collapse at Champlain Towers’ South condo.
“We are exploring all possible avenues, and we are going to continue and work ceaselessly to exhaust every possible option in our search,” she said. “We are going to get to the bottom of what happened here. Right now, our top priority is search and rescue and find the people.”
Emergency crews’ work can be painstakingly demanding. At times, it requires first responders to remove debris bucket by bucket.
“We’re not lifting floor by floor, we’re talking about pulverized concrete. We’re talking about steel,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Ray Jadallah.
“Our biggest concern is causing more harm than good,” said Steve Lawrence with Florida Task Force 3.
“It’s truly a moving operation,” said Levine Cava.
The pace that officials are finding victims has had family members losing patience.
Cellphone video posted to Twitter captured a woman confronting officials this past weekend.
“It’s not enough. Imagine if your children were in there,” she said.
The 12-story building collapsed early Thursday morning while residents were fast asleep.
First responders across the state have been working nonstop to search for victims, but the task has been exceptionally difficult. From thunderstorms to a fire that burned for more than a day, obstacle after obstacle stood in their way.
“We don’t want to get any of our firefighters or our rescuers injured, so we have to go slow, methodical,” said Lawrence.
“When we find a void and we kind of want to go further, deeper to see if there’s a deeper void or something different that we find, there’s definitely a concern with the rain and now the debris and possibly sliding,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky. “It’s an extremely dangerous situation.”
The operation is so delicate, Jadallah said families saw how dangerous the rescue effort is for themselves.
“They witnessed a rescuer tumble 25 feet down the mound,” he said. “That is the perfect example of the situation that we’re dealing with.”
According to the state fire marshal, there are about 370 Urban Search & Rescue team members and five state task forces at the site.
“These people that are coming to help our people out here have the hope to find people alive, and that’s something we cannot stop,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.
Over the weekend, search crews dug a trench through the debris that will allow them to have better access to the site. It’s 125 feet long, 20 feet wide and 40 feet deep.
“By creating that trench, it’s also giving us opportunities to look for different areas in regards to access points to search from,” said Cominsky.
Levine Cava said there are 150 people still unaccounted for and 136 who have been accounted for.
“Our detectives are working in real time, right now, to audit this list,” she said. “We’re receiving multiple calls still from family members about the same loved ones, and the information is coming from various sources. I want to stress, as we have from the beginning, these numbers are very fluid, and they will continue to change.”
While the search for survivors increases, so do the concerns.
“My room is overlooking the Champlain Towers South,” said area resident Nina Le Troadec.
While families anxiously wait for updates, the mayor says bussing them to the site helps them appreciate the scale of the rescue effort.
“They have seen the operation,” she said. “They understand now how it works, and they are preparing themselves for news in one way or the other.”
Despite rescue efforts reaching into a fifth day, first responders said their equipment has located large gaps in the rubble, which gives them hope they can still find survivors.
“In regards to the actual spaces, not to say that we’ve seen anybody down there, but we haven’t gotten to the very bottom,” said Jadallah.
It’s that hope many families are still holding onto.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett held back tears while sharing the moment he saw an 11-year-old girl sitting by herself, praying for her lost parent near the rubble.
“She wasn’t crying, she was just lost,” he said. “She didn’t know what to do, what to say. I’m going to tell her that we’re all here for her, and we’re going to do the best we can to bring out that parent.”
Michael Noriega is holding on tight to his faith that rescuers will find his grandmother, Hilda.
“We believe that anything is still possible in the situation because it’s not over and our family and I, we believe that God is bigger than this situation,” he said.
“We’re finding certain areas, certain components within that we keep going, keep pushing forward,” said Cominsky. “Spirits, I would say, are definitely still high, very optimistic.”
Why a wing of the building collapsed remains a mystery. Those living in neighboring buildings are trying to decide whether they will stay or go.
“You never know if it could happen to our building, and now, every night, I go to sleep thinking, ‘Is my building going to collapse?'” said Le Troadec.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Support Surfside fund has raised more than $1.2 million.
Those who have missing loved ones should visit the Family Reunification Center, located at 9301 Collins Ave., or call 305-614-1819.
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