Miami condo death toll rises to 46 as families of missing brace for ‘tragic loss’
Families of about 100 people still unaccounted for in the south Florida condominium collapse are preparing for news of “tragic loss”, the Miami-Dade mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, has said.
The official death toll rose to 46 on Wednesday morning as the search for victims in the dangerous pile of rubble of a Miami-area high-rise condominium reached its 14th day.
Joe Biden, who visited the area last week, called the mayor on Tuesday to offer his continued support, as authorities have been striking an increasingly grim tone about any chances of finding someone miraculously still alive in the wreckage.
“I think everybody will be ready when it’s time to move to the next phase,” she said.
Several hundred mourners gathered on Tuesday in a Miami Beach church at the first funeral for victims of the 24 June collapse.
Marcus Guara, 52, his wife Ana Guara, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, four, were remembered as a tight-knit family who loved taking walks on the beach and spending time together.
All four were killed when half of the 12-story Champlain Towers South building abruptly came down in the early morning hours as most residents slept.
“Who would have thought a few weeks ago that our community had so many ties to one little building in one small corner of Florida called Surfside,” Marcus Guara’s cousin, Peter Milián, said during a eulogy for the family.
The search for more victims is carrying on despite the approach of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall on Florida’s northern Gulf coast later on Wednesday.
Forecasters said Surfside will probably be spared the worst of the storm, but its approach prompted local officials to demolish a still-standing section of the building on Sunday night due to worries that high winds could knock it down.
Lightning brought by Elsa forced search and rescue teams to halt their operation for a time on Tuesday. Officials said their task could be interrupted again before the storm passes, as teams working around the clock search the precarious pile of wreckage with a range of methods ranging from heavy lifting equipment and hand-sorting rubble into buckets.
Searchers have found no new signs of survivors, and although authorities said their mission was still geared toward finding people alive, they sounded increasingly somber.
“Right now, we’re in search and rescue mode,” the county’s police director, Freddy Ramirez, said at a news conference on Tuesday evening.
He added: “Our primary goal right now is to bring closure to the families.”
Meanwhile, Florida officials have said they have “significant concerns” regarding the structural integrity of another condominium near the Champlain Towers South building, which collapsed almost two weeks ago, killing at least 36 people.
Charles Burkett, mayor of Surfside, said Tuesday that a review is being conducted into Champlain Towers North, the fallen 12-story condo tower’s sister complex, which is still standing near the rubble.
Burkett told reporters Towers North is “essentially the same building, built by the same developer at the same time, with the same plans, probably with the same materials” as the Towers South building.
“And given we do not know why the first building fell down we have significant concerns about that building and the residents in there,” he said.