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Florida condo collapse survivors disagree on site's future at court hearing

By
Don Jacobson
A photo posted by Florida State Sen. Jason Pizzo on Wednesday showed a large empty space in Surfside, Fla., where there was once 22 million pounds of rubble. Photo by Fla. State Sen. Jason Pizzo/Twitter
A photo posted by Florida State Sen. Jason Pizzo on Wednesday showed a large empty space in Surfside, Fla., where there was once 22 million pounds of rubble. Photo by Fla. State Sen. Jason Pizzo/Twitter

July 21 (UPI) -- Survivors of the collapsed 12-story oceanfront condominium in Surfside, Fla., appeared in court for the first time Wednesday and offered differing opinions on how or whether to rebuild on the site.

No consensus on how to proceed was apparent as condo owners and family members who survived the June 24 partial collapse of Champlain Towers South testified during a civil court hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman.

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Some of the condo owners are seeking to work with a developer to rebuild the tower on the same site, but others told the court they could not bear to live again on the spot of the tragedy, where 97 bodies were pulled from the rubble, all but two of which have been identified.

Those in favor of redeveloping the site sought to convince Hanzman to let work proceed, WPLG-TV reported.

RELATED Florida condo collapse: Death toll increases to 97; 4 identified

"It's an opportunity to live in an area like that that doesn't come around very often and to replace it now for a lot of these owners will be almost mission impossible, considering where home prices are, especially beachfront property," condo owner Oren Cytrynbaum said.

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Others, however, said the property held too many disturbing memories.

"I personally could never live in a building [there] -- that is a gravesite," former resident Raysa Rodriguez testified, according to the Miami Herald.

RELATED Florida condo collapse: Death toll rises to 96; 911 calls released

Despite the lack of consensus, Hanzman ruled out suggestions the survivors could be asked to donate the site for use as a memorial or a park, CNN reported.

Regardless of "the views of some people who are not victims, this court's task and your task is to compensate the victims of this tragedy, period," Hanzman said.

The hearing came as new images showed that nearly all of the more than 22 million pounds of debris has been cleared away, leaving a yawning, empty space.

RELATED Surfside tower collapse death toll reaches 95

Florida State Sen. Jason Pizzo posted pictures on Twitter showing the progress made at clearing away the rubble.

The photos showed only a few concrete blocks remaining on the collapse site, which only 4 weeks ago was buried in mountains of rubble.

Scenes from Surfside, Fla., condo collapse

Mourners stop to pay respects to the missing victims at the memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church near the collapsed Champlain Towers condo in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

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