Confirmed deaths rose to 90 in the recovery efforts in the Miami Beach-area condo building collapse as crews continue to sift through the debris more than two weeks after the Champlain Towers South fell in the middle of the night.
At least 71 of the victims have been properly identified with next-of-kin notifications provided to their families, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Sunday morning. Search efforts have accelerated in the last week after officials demolished a still-standing section of the building that prevented teams from accessing a portion of the debris pile.
An estimated 31 people remain unaccounted for.
Officials said Saturday that there has been an increase in the number of victims recovered because crews have been able to remove a large amount of debris from the pile. An estimated 14 million pounds of concrete have been removed, Cava told reporters Sunday.
Cava also thanked the international crew who flew in to assist local authorities with the recovery efforts, specifically an Israeli team who offered their help. She presented keys to the county to the team’s commander in gratitude for their work, the mayor said.
“We especially wanted to salute the Israeli team before they’re departing today, in recognition of their unrelenting dedication and their compassionate service to our community and to the families and survivors of this tragedy,” Cava said.
Police are working with crews to meticulously catalogue all personal items that are recovered as teams sift through the debris to return to families. Detectives are working with families to not only track who might still be missing in the collapse but also to note what items — including family heirlooms or those with religious significance — might be outstanding.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said engineers who were examining the Champlain Towers North, about a block away from the collapsed building, were expecting some test results to be returned soon.
“The early results on the concrete is that the concrete strength is very good and at, or beyond, the levels at which it should be,” Burkett said. “They’re analyzing the contents and substance of the concrete, and that’s going to take a little longer.”
The cause of the June 24 collapse is still unclear, though documents released following the accident included a 2018 report which highlighted an engineer’s concerns that the building had “major structural damage.” The engineer said his findings showed there was “abundant cracking” and crumbling in the underground parking garage of the condo building.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology and local agencies are investigating what caused the partial collapse. An audit is underway in the Miami-Dade area to examine the structural integrity of similar buildings, particularly those undergoing a 40-year recertification.