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Officials: Death toll rises to nine in Miami-Dade condo collapse

By
Daniel Uria and Allen Cone
Heavy rescue equipment works on the collapsed condo building in Surfside, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Heavy rescue equipment works on the collapsed condo building in Surfside, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

June 27 (UPI) -- Nine people have been confirmed dead in the aftermath of the collapse of a condominium complex in South Florida three days ago, Miami-Dade Mayor Danielle Levine Cava announced Sunday.

During a Sunday morning news conference in Seaside, Levine Cava said four additional bodies had been recovered from the rubble and one person had died at a hospital after four bodies had previously been recovered from the scene.

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The remains of four had been identified early Sunday, according to Miami Dade Fire Rescue, and Levine Cava said they have notified next of kin. Levine Cava said four more remains were identified by Sunday evening and efforts were being made to notify next of kin.

"We are making every effort to identify those others who have been recovered and additionally contacting their family members as soon as we are able," she said.

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At least 152 people remained unaccounted for and 134 others were accounted for as crews continue to search after more than half the building, about 55 units, collapsed.

Levine Cava added that families of those announced dead or unaccounted for will be allowed to visit the site.

"We are working with the families and there will be opportunity for visitation. It will be a very private event," she said.

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Levine Cava said officials are having "very frank conversations" with the families about the possibility of finding no more survivors.

"The firefighters and others who've briefed them are very direct about the situation, that we are continuing to search. We do continue to hope that we find people, but certainly they're aware that we're finding remains and even that we're finding body parts so they're preparing for that," Levine Cava told the Miami Herald.

Deane Criswell, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Sunday that the Army Corps of Engineers would provide technical assistance to the collapse site.

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"We are committed to working with the incident commander, the mayor, the governor and the state team to bring in any additional resources that might be needed throughout this event," said Criswell."

Crews have been searching through the rubble since the sudden collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers in Surfside, about 3 miles north of Miami Beach.

The City of Miami Beach declared a state of emergency on Sunday noting that Champlain Towers is "steps away from the city's northernmost border" with Surfside.

"A significant portion of the staging for the emergency response efforts is taking place within Miami Beach," the city said.

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Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said residents in the condominium's sister building would be provided support to relocate in light of the collapse. The North Tower also built in 1981 by the same company a block away.

"We have gone ahead and advised the condominium association that should they feel uncomfortable staying in that building given the circumstances, that we have alternatives for them," he said.

Crews were able to contain fires burning beneath the rubble as Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said during a news conference Saturday night crews will be able to continue search-and-rescue efforts more efficiently.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan R. Cominsky said resources include robots, dogs, drones, sonar technology, cameras and numerous teams including from Mexico and Israel.

Engineers were at the site reporting on the structural stability of what was left standing.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday that "the debris that's removed does have forensic value and that's going to be parsed."

The building's condo association was getting ready to make updates and repairs on the building, which has deteriorated over the years leading to extensive inspections, ABC News reported.

The roof was undergoing work and the construction projects nearby led to scrutiny, the broadcaster reported.

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Engineers had pointed out "major structural damage," including evidence of flooding, cracking and corrosion, in a 2018 survey report. The report noted columns in the condo's garage needed to be replaced, according to ABC News and CNN.

Levine Cava said Saturday that city officials will conduct audits of all buildings 40 years and older.

"We want to make sure that every building has completed their recertification process, and we want to move swiftly to remediate any issues that may have been identified in that process," she told reporters.

The building was due for 40-year recertification this year, he confirmed, although he did not give an exact date.

"South Florida has some of the most stringent building codes in the country and so I have a lot of confidence that what's being built in the here and now are being done very, very well and would be resistant not only to a thing like this but storms," DeSantis said.

The building was constructed before standards were strengthened after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

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