The death toll in the collapse of a beachfront condo in Surfside, Fla., increased to 46 on Wednesday after 10 more bodies were pulled from the rubble overnight as the search for survivors entered its 14th day.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava made the grim announcement at a press conference Wednesday morning.
“As the magnitude of this catastrophe continues to grow each and every day since the collapse, our community and the world are grieving with all the families who are living through this unthinkable tragedy,” Cava said.
The number of those reported missing dropped to 94.
“Every single victim uncovered is somebody’s child, somebody’s mother, somebody’s teacher, somebody’s colleague, a classmate, a best friend,” the mayor said. “Our hearts break for those who are mourning and for those who are waiting and waiting.”
Rescue efforts have been complicated by frequent storms, including Tropical Storm Elsa, which made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning. The storm, however, largely missed the Miami area without disrupting the search.
Hundreds of firefighters, as well as teams from Israel, Mexico and the Army Corps of Engineers, have been working in shifts around the clock on the pile of twisted metal and concrete, searching for signs of life.
“Our first responders have truly searched that pile every single day since the collapse, as if they’re searching for their own loved ones,” Cava said.
Officials have yet to pivot from search and rescue to search and recovery, even though no one has been pulled from the rubble alive since the day of the collapse.
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescue workers are “aggressively” searching for survivors, but acknowledged that they are “not seeing anything positive.”
“The key things — void spaces, living spaces — we’re not seeing anything like that,” Cominsky said Tuesday.
It’s not clear what caused the collapse of the 40-year-old building, known as Champlain Towers South.
Newly released documents showed that an engineering firm warned of “major structural damage” and the potential for “exponential damage” in 2018.
Sea level rise due to climate change is also being considered as a contributing factor.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said engineers continue to assess the structural integrity of Champlain Towers North, which sits a block away from its collapsed twin.
Alternative housing options have been offered to residents of Champlain Towers North, Burkett said, but a mandatory evacuation has not yet been ordered.
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