Miami, Jun 27 (EFE).- Relatives of the some 150 people missing in the collapse of a residential building in Miami-Dade, Florida, visited the site Sunday, four days after the tragedy and in the midst of an effort to keep hope alive.
Local and state authorities continued their efforts to locate survivors, while the official death toll rose to nine with 152 missing.
For reasons not yet determined, the Champlain Towers South building, inaugurated in 1981 and with a total of 136 apartment over 12 floors on the beachfront in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, collapsed at 1.30 am (6.30 GMT) on Thursday as its inhabitants slept.
Despite few results from the ongoing search through the rubble by experts assisted by dogs, machinery and technology, public officials and the state governor, Ron DeSantis, insist that the focus is on finding people alive.
The number of fatalities increased from five to nine on Sunday.
“We were able to recover four additional bodies in the rubble, as well as additional human remains,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference.
“As of today, one victim passed away in the hospital and we’ve recovered eight more victims on sight.”
Miami-Dade police released the names of three fatalities, with four of the deceased identified so far: Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, Antonio Lozano, 83; Gladys Lozano, 79, and Manuel LaFont, 54.
On the fourth day of searching through a mass of collapsed concrete, iron and air conditioners, the authorities agreed to the pleas of the families of the missing to visit the scene of the disaster.
“We are working with the families and there will be opportunity for visitation. It will be a very private event,” Levine Cava said.
The families left after noon on buses from the Grand Beach Hotel, where a family reunification center has been set up, to the vicinity of Champlain Towers South, now called Miami-Dade’s “ground zero.”
However, hopes have waned since families were asked for DNA samples to help identify the bodies and remains extracted from the rubble.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett vowed the search would not end “until everybody is out” and expressed hope of finding survivors.
Champlain Towers South is part of a trio of coastal buildings erected by the same real estate developer. The residents are questioning if they should abandon the buildings still standing, with some already having done so.
An engineering firm will begin inspecting the remaining buildings from Tuesday, Burkett said.
Rescuers are working in a 38-meter-long, 12-meter-deep trench cut through the mass of rubble.
The mayor announced that an open fund to help affected families has already received donations of $1.2 million. EFE