Florida condo collapse death toll rises to 64 as recovery work continues

People gather at a memorial site for victims of the collapsed 12-storey Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.
People gather at a memorial site for victims of the collapsed 12-storey Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.PHOTO: AFP

SURFSIDE, FLORIDA (REUTERS) - The confirmed death toll in the collapse of a Miami-area condominium tower rose to 64 on Thursday (July 8) after crews recovered 10 more bodies from the concrete and steel ruins of the building.

A total of 76 people remain missing and feared dead, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference, one day after local officials said no hope remained of finding survivors of the June 24 disaster.

That number could change as it remains possible that not all were in the building when it fell.

As of midnight EDT on Thursday (12 noon, Singapore time), the emergency effort officially changed from an attempt to find survivors to a recovery operation, destroying any hope of extracting anyone still alive in the debris.

“Yesterday was tough,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at the news conference, referring to the announcement of the shift to recovery mode.

“But the work is going to go on and they are going to identify every single person.”

Levine Cava told reporters that discussions have begun on doing “something different to commemorate” the tragedy and its victims.

"The work continues with all speed and urgency," she said, adding that search teams suspended work at 1.20am EDT (1.20pm Singapore time) to observe the two-week mark since the catastrophe.

"Our detectives are working hand in hand with the crime scene and medical examiner personnel, moving as fast as we can to identify the victims and notify the next of kin in order to bring closure to the families," she said.

Priests and nuns carry a makeshift statue of Our Lady of Fatima past St Joseph Church in Miami Beach before walking to a vigil for victims, in Surfside, Florida. PHOTO: AFP

Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil near the disaster site on Wednesday evening, struggling to come to terms with their loved ones' fate.

DeSantis and other officials vowed to meet the various needs of affected families, which they noted would last long into the future.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose South Florida district includes Surfside, promised to help people navigate bureaucratic hurdles to get the assistance they needed.