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Live Updates From Surfside: Firefighters Now in Recovery Mode

The 12-story Champlain Towers South condo has vanished from the coastal skyline following the controlled demolition of the building on the night of July 4.
The 12-story Champlain Towers South condo has vanished from the coastal skyline following the controlled demolition of the building on the night of July 4. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty
click to enlarge The 12-story Champlain Towers South condo has vanished from the coastal skyline following the controlled demolition of the building on the night of July 4. - PHOTO BY JOE RAEDLE/GETTY
The 12-story Champlain Towers South condo has vanished from the coastal skyline following the controlled demolition of the building on the night of July 4.
On July 4, demolition crews brought down the still-standing portions of Champlain Towers South, the Surfside condo building that partially collapsed late last month. With dozens of people still unaccounted for, the demolition of the building marked a sort of turning point in the search, with many family members accepting that they likely will not get the reunions they were seeking with their missing loved ones.

For now, the search continues, and with the threat of a second collapse now gone, firefighters are moving with greater speed than before. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told reporters this week that operations are "moving much faster" now that workers can maneuver heavy equipment around the site without fear.

Whether those operations will take days, weeks, or months remains to be seen. Here's what's new in the ongoing mission in Surfside.

Thursday, 11:06 a.m.:

The operation at Champlain Towers South has officially transitioned from a rescue mission, in which the goal is to find living survivors, to a recovery mission, in which the intent is to locate and remove human remains. First responders have little hope of finding additional survivors after two weeks of attempts.


This morning at approximately 1:20, search and rescue teams working on the pile held a moment of silence to honor the victims of the collapse, which occurred at the same hour on Thursday, June 24.

At a media briefing this morning, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said search teams have so far recovered 60 bodies from the rubble and identified 35 of those people. At least 80 are still missing.

As first responders transition to the recovery effort, Cava says they will be moving just as rapidly. Teams on the pile are also working to collect and catalog personal items, such as legal documents, photos, jewelry, and religious items. The county will create a process for survivors and family members of victims to request their missing belongings.

At Champlain Towers North, the twin structure to the collapsed condo, investigative teams are searching for structural deficiencies that could possibly lead to a similar collapse, according to Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. Burkett said investigators at the north condo are using ground-penetrating radar and collecting concrete samples to look for signs of salt intrusion that might cause structural weakening.

Two more victims have been identified since yesterday: 71-year-old Elaine Lia Sabino and 58-year-old Gary Cohen.

—Joshua Ceballos

Wednesday, 1 p.m.:

The Miami-Dade Police Department has identified three additional victims:
  • Graciela Cattarossi, age 86
  • Gino Cattarossi, age 89
  • Simon Segal, age 80
All three were recovered from the site on Tuesday.

—Jessica Lipscomb

Wednesday, 12:41 p.m.:

Search teams in Surfside have recovered ten additional victims, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced at a press conference this morning.


That brings the number of confirmed deaths to 46. There are 94 people who remain unaccounted for.

Cava told reporters that the demolition has significantly improved the search operation.

"The teams continue to make progress in the areas of the pile that were inaccessible prior to the demolition," she said.

She asked for continued prayers for the families who have now been waiting for answers for 14 days.

"Every single victim uncovered is somebody's child, somebody's mother, somebody's teacher, somebody's colleague, a classmate, a best friend," she said. "Our hearts break for those who are mourning and those who are waiting and waiting."

—Jessica Lipscomb

Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.:

Since the building came down on Sunday, search crews have recovered at least 12 victims from the site. To date, six have been publicly identified:
  • Ingrid Ainsworth, age 66
  • Tzvi Ainsworth, age 68
  • Nancy Kress Levin, age 76
  • Jay Kleiman, age 52
  • Francis Fernandez, age 67
The death toll now stands at 36, although seven of the victims have not yet been named.

Although the search is still being billed as a rescue mission, meaning that firefighters are looking for any signs of life in the rubble, officials made clear that the possibility is unlikely.

"Our primary goal right now is to bring closure to the families," Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez told reporters at a press conference last night.

—Jessica Lipscomb
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Miami New Times staff