Dwell Updates: Miami Space Residence Collapse: NPR
A member of an Israeli search and rescue team (left) salutes the rubble that was once Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida during a prayer ceremony Wednesday. Jose A Iglesias / AP Hide caption
Jose A Iglesias / AP
Jose A Iglesias / AP
SURFSIDE, Florida (AP) – A gloomy minute of silence marked the end of a two-week search for survivors of a Florida condo collapse as rescue workers solemnly stood at attention and clergymen hugged a number of local officials as many of them sobbed.
The arduous search for survivors shifted to a rescue at midnight Wednesday after authorities came to the agonizing conclusion that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo building in Surfside.
When the decision to go into recovery mode was made, “it took a little piece of the heart of this community,” said US MP Debbie Wasserman Schultz at a news conference Thursday.
The death toll was 60 Thursday morning, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday. Officials said 80 people were missing, although detectives were still working to verify that everyone listed as missing was actually in the building when it collapsed.
Rescuers spent two weeks digging through the rubble looking in vain for a sign of life, Levine Cava said.
“They have used every strategy and technology available to them to find people in the rubble,” she said. “They removed over 7 million pounds of concrete and rubble from the mound. They used sonar, cameras, dogs and heavy machinery. They searched for empty rooms and searched for victims. They ran into a building.” they were told they might collapse and they braved fire, smoke, torrential rain and high winds in hopes of finding living people. “
Hours before the formal transition from rescue to salvage mission, these rescue workers joined local officials, rabbis and chaplains in a moment of silence.
An unseen accordionist on a nearby tennis court played Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” followed by a piccolo playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Firefighters from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the federal government and elsewhere were also in attendance.
On a high fence nearby, families and well-wishers had posted photos of the victims, messages of support and flowers. The firefighters hung a banner over the fence with the words “Miami-Dade Fire Rescue mourns with you”.
A promise to the families of the victims to close the deal
Officials promised to continue the rescue operations until they find the remains of all the missing.
Miami-Dade deputy fire chief Raide Jadallah told families during a private meeting that crews would stop using rescue dogs and listening devices.
“Our sole responsibility right now is to graduate,” he said while relatives wept in the background.
Later, during a press conference, Jadallah said the crews were still determined to do whatever they can to quit the job.
“The resources are still there. The men and women are still there. The support is still there,” said Jadallah, who began to cry silently after his speech.
Alan Cominsky, chief of the Miami-Dade fire department, said he expected the rescue operations to take a few more weeks.
Dennis Dirkmaat, professor of anthropology and chair of the Department of Applied and Forensic Sciences at Mercyhurst University, said he expected crews to use heavy equipment in a “top-down” approach to methodically lifting material from the rubble, in Place and evaluate containers for evidence of human remains. He said the process would likely repeat itself when the crews move to the following floors.
“It’s still a process, a slow, arduous process, to remove all of this debris. And so it will take a while, ”he said.
Hopes of finding survivors were briefly rekindled after workers demolished the rest of the building to give rescuers access to new areas of rubble.
Some of these voids existed, mostly in the basement and parking garage, but no survivors turned up. Instead, the teams recovered more than a dozen other victims. Because the building collapsed in the early hours of the morning, many were found dead in their beds.
No one has been pulled out alive since the first hours after the twelve-story building collapsed on June 24th.
Rescuers had to interrupt the operation twice during the search because of the instability of the remaining part of the condominium and the preparations for demolition.
After initially hoping for miraculous rescues, families slowly prepared for the news that their relatives did not survive.
“For some, what they tell us is almost a sense of relief when they already know (someone has died) and they can just start to finish this chapter and move on,” said Miami-Dade firefighter and medic Maggie Castro who updated families on a daily basis.
Authorities are opening a grand jury investigation into the collapse, and Champlain Towers families have filed at least six lawsuits.