Surfside condo collapse

‘We Are Not Stopping': Surfside Death Toll Reaches 64 as Recovery Effort Continues

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday that 76 people were still potentially unaccounted for

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What to Know

  • The Surfside condo collapse death toll rose to 64 Thursday after 10 more bodies were discovered, officials said
  • Another 76 people were still potentially unaccounted for, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said
  • The news comes as the painstaking search for survivors shifted to a recovery effort at midnight Wednesday

The bodies of ten more victims were recovered from the site of the Surfside condominium collapse, bringing the death toll to 64, officials said Thursday.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday that 76 people were still potentially unaccounted for, although detectives were still working to verify that each of those listed as missing was actually in the building when it collapsed.

Levine Cava said rescue teams paused for a brief moment of silence at 1:20 a.m. Thursday to mark the moment the section of the Champlain Towers South collapsed exactly two weeks ago.

"It's been a rough couple of weeks," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday. "This is a big void that's going to be felt, not just in these families but in this community as a whole."

Search crews are cataloging personal items they find in the rubble to return them to victims or their families, including legal documents, credit cards, jewelry and other personal items.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said he spoke with fire rescue workers who told him they won't stop working "until they've gotten to the bottom of the pile."

"We are not stopping," Burkett said Thursday evening about the recovery effort.

The victims of the Surfside collapse were honored in an interfaith vigil as the death toll rose to 64. NBC 6's Alyssa Hyman reports

Burkett added that workers are also taking concrete samples from the sister building, Champlain Towers North, to test the composition and see if they find any irregularities.

The news comes as the painstaking search for survivors shifted to a recovery effort at midnight Wednesday after authorities said they had come to the agonizing conclusion that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside.

Levine Cava said rescue workers who have been at the site for two weeks are dedicated to the task of recovering as many victims as possible.

“The work continues with all speed and urgency," she said. "We are working around the clock to recover victims and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can.”

DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose congressional district includes Surfside, pledged financial assistance to families of the victims, as well as to residents of the building who survived but lost all their possessions, while acknowledging the devastating toll the tragedy has taken on them over the past two weeks.

“Is there hope? Will we be able to have a miracle? I know it’s weighed a lot on the families,” DeSantis said.

In addition to property tax relief for residents of the building, DeSantis said the state government will work toward channeling an outpouring of charitable donations to families affected by the collapse.

The change from search and rescue to recovery was somber. Hours before the transition Wednesday, rescue workers stood at solemn attention, and clergy members hugged a line of local officials while many of them sobbed.

An accordion player unseen on a nearby tennis court played Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which was followed by a piccolo playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

On a tall nearby fence, families and well-wishers had posted photos of the victims, supportive messages and flowers. Firefighters hung a banner atop the fence that read “Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Mourns With You.”

NBC 6's Paxton Boyd spoke to Bernardo Camou, whose sister Gabriela is still unaccounted for in Surfside.

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Ray Jadallah told weeping families during a private briefing on Wednesday that the rescuers' “sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure.”

Later, during a news conference, Jadallah said crews remained committed to doing whatever it takes to finish the job.

“The resources are still there. The men and women are still there. The support is still there,” said Jadallah, who began crying silently after he spoke.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said he expects the recovery effort will take several more weeks.

Hope of finding survivors was briefly rekindled after workers demolished the remainder of the building, allowing rescuers access to new areas of debris.

Some voids where survivors could have been trapped did exist, mostly in the basement and the parking garage, but no one was found alive. Instead, teams recovered more than a dozen additional victims. Because the building fell in the early morning hours, many were found dead in their beds.

No one had been pulled out alive since the first hours after the 12-story building fell on June 24.

Twice during the search operation, rescuers had to suspend the mission because of the instability of the remaining part of the condominium building and the preparation for demolition.

Authorities are launching a grand jury investigation into the collapse and at least six lawsuits have been filed by Champlain Towers families.

AP and NBC 6
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