Authorities say they are making progress in the painstaking search for victims of the deadly building collapse in Florida last month.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Sunday that 90 deaths have now been confirmed in the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South in Surfside, up from 86 a day before.
Among them are 71 bodies that have been identified, and their families have been notified, she said. Some 31 people remain listed as missing.
Levine Cava also said the unrelenting search amid the rubble has resulted in the recovery of over 14 million pounds of concrete and debris.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett stressed not only the speed of the recovery work but also the care that rescue workers are taking in peeling back layers of rubble.
“The work is so delicate that we’re even finding unbroken wine bottles,” said Burkett.
In recognition of rescuers from abroad, Levine Cava said she gave the keys to the county to the Israeli commander and colonel — her first two handed out as mayor. An Israeli search and rescue team arrived in South Florida shortly after the building collapsed on June 24. The team was heading home Sunday after an emotion sendoff in Surfside.
During a brief ceremony on Saturday evening, Levine Cava thanked the battalion for their “unrelenting dedication.” Members of the task forces that have been searching the site 24 hours a day since the collapse lined both sides of the street, shaking hands and bidding farewell to the Israeli team.
While authorities have concluded that there was “no chance of life” in the remaining rubble, the pressure remains for search crews to find victims so families can lay their loved ones to rest. Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said it was not possible to pinpoint the date that the search and recovery effort would end.
Heavy machinery is removing debris, he said, while on the rubble pile from the collapse itself, there is “hand-digging” going on.
“As we’re delayering it’s a slow process,” Cominsky said.
The Israeli team joined other task forces from around the United States to assist the teams from Miami and Miami-Dade County, working in 12-hour shifts. They have searched through South Florida’s intense summer heat, and in pouring rain, pausing only when lightning was spotted nearby. They also paused operations as officials made plans to implode the still-standing portion of the condo tower on July 4.
The Israeli team used blueprints of the building to create detailed 3D images of the disaster site to aid in the search. They also gathered information from families of the missing, many of who were Jewish, to build a room-by-room model laying out where people would have been sleeping during the pre-dawn collapse.
Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Freida Frisaro And Bobby Caina Calvan, The Associated Press