Disasters & Accidents

Death toll in US building collapse climbs to 22

Miami, Jul 2 (EFE).- Two more bodies were found Friday in the rubble of a 12-story residential building north of Miami Beach that partially collapsed eight days ago, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

“We did recover two additional victims. We now have 22 confirmed deaths, 188 people accounted for and 126 unaccounted for,” she told reporters at the Champlain Towers South structure in Surfside.

“Our detectives are continually editing this list as we verify every single report that we have received regarding a potentially missing person,” the mayor said.

Levine Cava also announced her decision in favor of a controlled demolition to bring down the portion of the structure left standing after the collapse in the wee hours of June 24.

The mayor said that she signed an emergency order “authorizing the demolition of the building in the interest of public health and safety as soon as the engineers sign off on the next steps to begin the demolition process.”

She emphasized, however, that the demolition would not happen soon and certainly not before Hurricane Elsa arrives in the vicinity of Florida by the end of the weekend.

“That is going to take, most likely, weeks. It is not possible, either from an engineering or any other perspective, to move more rapidly than that,” Levine Cava said.

Authorities are “monitoring the storm very closely,” but have yet to decide whether it will be necessary to put search and rescue efforts on hold, she said.

During an earlier press conference at the site, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that South Florida could experience tropical-storm force winds as early as Sunday night.

“And so we’re actively monitoring the situation like we always would do with these storms, but given what we’re doing on this site, we’re also paying special attention to any impacts that could happen here in Northeast Miami-Dade County,” he said.

The search effort resumed toward evening Thursday after being suspended for 15 hours due to fears that the surviving section of the 40-year-old building might collapse.

One of the two victims found late Thursday was the 7-year-old daughter of one of the firefighters assisting in the rescue effort.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the families affected by this horrific tragedy,” Miami Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Zahralban said Friday. “We can confirm that a member of our City of Miami Fire Department family has lost his 7-year-old daughter in the collapse.”

Miami’s Local 10 television reported that the team who found the firefighter’s daughter called him over from another part of the site.

A witness told Local 10 that the father wrapped the girl in his jacket and placed a small United States flag on the gurney on which she was carried away past an impromptu honor guard of first responders. EFE


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