Surfside condo collapse

Death Toll at 90; Touching Memorial Held for Victims of Surfside Collapse Tragedy

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What to Know

  • The death toll now stands at 90, with as many as 31 people still unaccounted for
  • More than 14 million pounds of concrete and debris have been removed from the site, officials said
  • A ceremony was held to honor Israeli rescuers who came to help families impacted by the Surfside condo collapse

As recovery workers enter the 18th day to find victims in the rubble of the Surfside condo collapse, the death toll rose to 90.

Israeli crews, who were among the first international teams to respond to the tragedy at the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, are returning home Sunday.

Before their departure, a ceremony was held Saturday to honor the crews and thank them for their help. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava decorated the heroes with medals.

"Last night, we held a memorial walk along Collins Avenue with family members and first responders, Hatzalah, that's been on the scene from the beginning and members of the Israeli Defense Forces," Levine Cava said. "This walk was truly a beautiful moment for those of us who were able to participate. Members of the community, our first responders, international partners, we all came together once again to recognize the enormous tragedy and the extraordinary efforts of everyone who has helped to get us through these difficult days and their tremendous heroism."

The death toll in the Surfside condo collapse rose to 90 on Sunday after recovery teams discovered additional bodies in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South.

At a news conference Sunday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 31 people remain potentially unaccounted for.

"Our hearts and minds are always with those we've lost and with the families who are grieving and those that are still waiting," Levine Cava said. 

The mayor added that the rescue operations were uninterrupted throughout the night and morning as teams worked tirelessly to make progress on the collapsed site.

The number of bodies recovered has put a strain on the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office, with the medical examiner from neighboring Broward County now helping. The mayor said more than 71 of the 90 victims have been identified.

Detectives are still working to verify that each of those listed as missing were actually in the building when it collapsed.

Meanwhile, officials said Sunday that there has been an increase in the number of victims recovered because crews have been able to remove a large amount of debris from the pile. More than 14 million pounds of concrete and debris have been hauled away from the site, officials said. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said that the pile is now ground level and below in some areas.

At the news conference Sunday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky detailed the process that recovery teams have taken to recover victims in the rubble.

"The stairwell is always a primary, you know, just the stability of how the stairwell is built -- it's hard and better than other areas per say. So with a collapse, that's where you have your greatest void space, greatest possibility," said Cominsky. "Unfortunately, the way of this type of collapse and everything coming down and another building shared, where we found a stairwell in another location per say that also collapsed in pancake, it minimized those opportunities."

NBC 6's Johnny Archer is in Surfside where he spoke with Florida State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis about how the demolition has helped speed up the process.

Burkett said crews were also collecting and cataloging numerous personal items, including legal documents, photo albums, jewelry, and electronic goods that they would seek to reunite families with.

"There continues to be heavy machinery undertaking very delicate scratching of the surfaces with our teams nearby, so they're utilizing every tool they have, the work is still so delicate that we've even found unbroken wine bottles in the rubble and recovered them," Burkett said. "We're also finding personal possessions as small as rings, which are also being returned to the site storage area, categorized, photographed and saved for the families."

Hope of finding survivors was briefly rekindled after workers demolished the remainder of the building, allowing 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.

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

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