SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - Rescue workers at the site of a collapsed condo building in Surfside have shifted from a rescue effort to a recovery effort as hopes of finding survivors have dwindled.
According to the Associated Press, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raied Jadallah told families on Wednesday that after searching all areas of debris, they have concluded that it will now be next to impossible to find people alive.
“The fact that we did not get an alert on a K-9, a sensor trip for sound and any visual utilizing our cameras, the last known alert that we received was the initial hours the day of the collapse,” Jadallah said.
Over the course of Wednesday, workers pulled 18 victims from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo building. In a press conference at 11 a.m., Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that 10 victims had been found overnight. By 6 p.m., crews had discovered an additional eight victims.
The confirmed number of dead now stands at 54, two weeks after the collapse. The discovery is the highest number of bodies found in a day.
So far, 33 of the victims have been identified, 200 people are accounted for and 86 people are potentially unaccounted for.
“I ask you all to look into my eyes, and I promise you we did everything. No effort was saved,” a member of Israel’s search team told families.
By Wednesday afternoon, police identified 86-year-old Graciela Cattarossi, 89-year-old Gino Cattarossi and 80-year-old Simon Segal as three of the victims who were found on Tuesday. Police identified 71-year-old Elaine Lia Sabino as one of the recovered victims, Wednesday night.
Officials and first responders alike held a moment of silence for the victims and families affected at 7:15 p.m. 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.
“It’s very difficult to see the situation now that these people are living,” said Carlos Binedla, who also took part in the moment of silence.
At one point during the morning media briefing, Levine Cava had to hold back tears before she stepped away from the podium.
Jadallah said the 10 victims recovered overnight Wednesday did not survive the initial collapse.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky reiterated what Jadallah said to families during a news conference.
“Our hearts still hoped to find survivors, but our experience and expertise indicated that was no longer possible,” he said.
When asked if anyone who has been recovered could have survived the initial collapse, Cominsky said, “No, we have not.”
Despite not finding any new void spaces where survivors could possibly be found alive, the demolition on Sunday helped in rescue efforts.
“The teams continue to make progress in the areas of the pile that were inaccessible prior to the demolition, and I’m glad to report that despite the difficult conditions, the teams experienced no injuries to the first responders,” said Levine Cava.
Among those missing due to the collapse are Pablo Rodriguez’s mother and grandmother, 64-year-old Elena Chaves Blasser and 88-year-old Elena Chaves.
“Disbelief, shock, heartache, they were full of life,” Rodriguez said. “They loved their family. They loved to travel. They loved the beach.”
According to the mayor, whenever rescue crews were given the opportunity to leave, they have opted to stay.
“Our Miami-Dade County Task Force 1 members, who’ve been here since the beginning, they could go home, but they’re still here,” Levine Cava said.
Other fire departments also joined in on the moment of silence.
Hialeah firefighters could be seen with their heads bowed in prayer in front of their fire trucks with the emergency lights activated.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said a grand jury has agreed to look into the collapse, and she said whatever they determine at the end of the process could have implications nationwide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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