Searchers find another Florida condo collapse victim, raising toll to 95

Excavators dig through the pile of debris following a severe thunderstorm on July 13, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. PHOTO: AFP

SURFSIDE, FLORIDA (REUTERS) - Searchers at a partially collapsed condominium near Miami found another victim, raising the number of confirmed deaths to 95 on Tuesday (July 13) as heavy rain and the gruesome challenge of identifying human remains slowed the recovery effort, officials said.

With 892 truckloads of concrete and debris totalling 8.16 million kg carted from the Surfside, Florida, site in past 20 days, the search focused on 14 people who were still missing, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

While the number of missing, which includes 10 confirmed victims who have yet to be identified, has declined sharply and is less than half of what it was just two days ago, officials said finishing the search would be more time consuming.

"It's a scientific, methodical process to identify human remains," Levine Cava told a briefing.

"As we've said, this work is becoming more difficult with the passage of time, and although our teams are working as hard as they can, it takes time."

So far, the local medical examiner has identified the remains of 85 of the 95 known victims, and their families have been notified, she added.

The list of those unaccounted for was compiled from all reports received from family members, even if they were uncertain that their missing loved ones were in the building at the time of the collapse, officials said.

The only people known to have survived were pulled from the wreckage within hours after part of the 12-storey oceanfront Champlain Towers South condominium complex collapsed without warning in the early morning hours of June 24.

Also slowing the process were heavy rains on Monday that flooded the site and its underground garage, and forced searchers to pause while the water was pumped out, officials said.

Once the search is finished, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said his town's structural engineer will inspect and test the site to try to determine what caused the collapse.

Out of caution officials issued a voluntary evacuation notice for sister complex, Champlain Towers North, which was built around the same time as the doomed structure and remains occupied. Though, after inspections it was found to be safe.

"Our structural engineer has said to the condominium board that he would allow his children to live in there, given what he knows now," Burkett said of Champlain Towers North.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Cava said officials and family members have discussed creating a memorial for the victims, but have yet to determine whether it would be on the site of the collapse.

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