Miami condo collapse: Death toll climbs to 16 as search for survivors enters 7th day

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The death toll in the collapse of a beachfront condo in Surfside, Fla., increased to 16 Wednesday as hope of finding survivors continues to fade.

At a press conference near the site of the collapse, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said four bodies were pulled from the rubble overnight, raising the official death toll to 16 while lowering the number of missing to 147.

Cava said that officials are conducting an audit of the list of people who are unaccounted for, and that the figures remain “fluid.”

Search and rescue efforts will continue, as officials said they are not yet ready to pivot to the search and recovery phase.

“It’s absolutely still a search and rescue mission,” Alan Cominsky, Miami-Dade fire chief, told reporters.

Rescue workers dig through the rubble at the partially collapsed building in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday. (MDFR/Handout via Reuters)Rescue workers dig through the rubble at the partially collapsed building in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday. (MDFR/Handout via Reuters)

Rescue workers dig through the rubble at the site of the collapse in Surfside, Fla., on Tuesday. (MDFR/Handout via Reuters)

“We’re not leaving anybody behind,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. “This is going to go until we pull everybody out of there.”

No survivors have been pulled from the rubble since Thursday, when 37 people were taken out alive in the hours after the building collapsed. One of them later died at the hospital.

Fifteen bodies have been recovered since.

President Biden, who authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid in the rescue and recovery efforts, plans to visit Surfside on Thursday.

Last week he offered sympathy for the families waiting for news about loved ones.

“There’s nothing worse than having to wait and wonder,” Biden said.

More than 200 emergency personnel, including the Army Corps of Engineers and teams from Israel and Mexico, have been working around the clock on the pile of twisted metal and concrete. Rescue crews have been using light equipment, including shovels and buckets, as well as specially trained dogs and sonar equipment, to search the pile.

Heavy rain and intermittent thunderstorms have complicated rescue operations.

It’s the largest deployment of task force resources in the state of Florida that has not been for a hurricane, Gov. Ron DeSantis said. The last rescue effort of this size was undertaken in 2018, after Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, struck.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said a tropical storm system has prompted officials to ask the federal government for the additional team so the state’s resources could be deployed to respond to the severe weather.

“We are doing everything humanly possible and then some to get through this,” Cava said.

It’s unclear what caused the building, which was built in 1981, to collapse.

Rescue workers search the rubble at the partially collapsed building in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday. (MDFR/Handout via Reuters)Rescue workers search the rubble at the partially collapsed building in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday. (MDFR/Handout via Reuters)

Rescue workers search through the rubble. (MDFR/Handout via Reuters)

A researcher at Florida International University told USA Today that the building has been sinking into the wetlands at an alarming rate since the 1990s, according to a 2020 study conducted by the school.

New documents released over the weekend showed that an engineering firm warned of “major structural damage” and the potential for “exponential damage” in 2018.

Sea level rise due to climate change is also being eyed as a contributing factor.

Meanwhile, Miami’s top prosecutor said Tuesday she will ask a grand jury to investigate the building’s collapse.

“I plan to request that our Grand Jury look at what steps we can take to safeguard our residents without jeopardizing any scientific, public safety, or potential criminal investigations,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement.

Daniel Alvarez of Argentina prays at makeshift memorial in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday. (Photo by Octavio Jones for The Washington Post via Getty Images)Daniel Alvarez of Argentina prays at makeshift memorial in Surfside, Fla., Tuesday. (Photo by Octavio Jones for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Daniel Alvarez of Argentina prays at a makeshift memorial in Surfside on Tuesday. (Octavio Jones for the Washington Post via Getty Images)

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