14 days after Florida condo collapse, no signs of survivors

People look out from a balcony onto the collapsed and subsequently demolished Champlain Towers South condominium building

People look out from a balcony onto the collapsed and subsequently demolished Champlain Towers South condominium building, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The search for victims of the collapse of a Miami-area high-rise condominium reached its 14th day on Wednesday, as workers uncovered 10 more bodies from the rubble and officials sounded more and more grim about the prospects of finding anyone alive.

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah broke the discovery of the additional bodies and human remains to family members in a private briefing Wednesday morning. The death toll now stands at 46.

The latest retrieval reflects what rescue officials have said would be a ramped-up pace of work throughout the debris field after the remaining portion of the condo building was demolished Sunday night.

Crews “did some significant removal of the pile,” Jadallah said. “They were able to get down to various areas to inspect.”

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Jadallah also reported the somber news that so far no new “voids” have been discovered in the areas that became accessible for the first time after the demolition. Rescuers had hoped to find new pockets where there might potentially be survivors.

Still, Jadallah told families the work continues to be a search and rescue operation and has not yet transitioned to a recovery mode.

“We’re not there yet,” he said.

No one has been rescued from the site since the first hours after the building collapsed on June 24 when many of its residents were asleep.

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Workers on Tuesday dug through pulverized concrete where the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside once stood, filling buckets that were passed down a line to be emptied and then returned.

The up-close look at the search, in a video released Tuesday by the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department, came as eight more deaths were announced — until Wednesday, the most for a single day since the search began. It also came as rain and wind from Tropical Storm Elsa disrupted the effort.

“Unfortunately, we are not seeing anything positive,” county fire chief Alan Cominsky said Tuesday night, referring to workers not finding any open spaces within the mounds of rubble where additional survivors might be found.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday that the families of the missing were preparing for news of “tragic loss.” She said President Joe Biden, who visited the area last week, called on Tuesday to offer his continued support.

“I think everybody will be ready when it’s time to move to the next phase,” she said.

Reporters got their closest in-person look at the site Tuesday, though it was limited to the portion of the building that workers tore down Sunday after the initial collapse left it standing but dangerously unstable. A pile of shattered concrete and twisted steel stood about 30 feet (9 meters) high and spanned roughly half the length of a football field. A pair of backhoes pulled rubble off the pile, which blocked any view of the search effort.

Severe weather from Elsa hindered search efforts to a degree. Lightning forced rescuers to pause their work for two hours early Tuesday, Jadallah said. And winds of 20 mph (32 kph), with stronger gusts, hampered efforts to move heavy debris with cranes, officials said.

Crews have removed 124 tons (112 metric tons) of debris from the site, Cominsky said. The debris was being sorted and stored in a warehouse as potential evidence in the investigation into why the building collapsed, officials said.

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