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11 dead, 150 missing as search-and-rescue efforts continue following Surfside condo collapse

Around-the-clock search occurring at Champlain Towers property
Rescuers work in rubble of Champlain Towers South condo collapse, June 27, 2021
Posted at 8:57 AM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 23:35:37-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — An eleventh body was pulled Monday from the rubble of a devastating Surfside condominium collapse, authorities said.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava made the announcement during a 6:30 p.m. news conference that 150 people are still unaccounted for, four days after the Champlain Towers South condominium building partially collapsed.

Levine Cava said 136 people have been accounted for after Thursday's collapse.

The mayor said the family assistance center has been expanded to include 14 different organizations that are actively working with the families.

"We are continuing as always to provide timely updates, as much information as we have to these families, and providing them the news," Levine Cava said Monday evening.

WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE:

Death toll in Surfside condo collapse rises to 11

Despite the tragedy, Levine Cava said the public's "many generous" donations were making a big difference to comfort the families.

"We raised over $1.6 million to help these families. This is truly monumental," Levine Cava said.

Those who want to make a donation can do so by visiting SupportSurfside.org.

Kevin Guthrie, the head of Florida's Emergency Management, said 225 urban search and rescue personnel have been dispatched to the site, which doesn't include local first responders from Miami-Dade County.

"All state agencies are all-in. We are here. We are taking care of the needs that they have … both the survivors, the families and then the county and city as well," Guthrie said. "There is a unified effort."

Officials said emergency crews are working around-the-clock in 12-hour shifts using K9 dogs, a variety of cameras, drones, sonar equipment, and heavy machinery to clear away chunks of debris.

"What we're dealing with is a situation that includes complexity," said Miami-​Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah. "We're talking about pulverized concrete. We're talking about steel. Every time there's an action, there's a reaction."

A trench that's 20 feet wide, 40 feet deep, and 125 feet long has been dug along the base of the rubble to assist in the search and to extinguish fires within the pile.

First responders have faced numerous challenges over the last few days, including strong storms and a deep fire inside that rubble that has since been contained.

Jadallah said the conditions are so hazardous, a rescuer on Sunday tumbled 25 feet down a mound of debris.

"It's gonna take time. It's not gonna happen overnight. It's a 12-story building. It's gonna take some time," Jadallah said of the search-and-rescue efforts.

WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE:

10 dead, 151 unaccounted for as search and rescue efforts continue

Promising a "thorough and full investigation" into the tragic collapse, state and local officials on Monday met with federal scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The agency, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will investigate structural issues at the Champlain Towers complex, identify points of weakness, and make recommendations for future building construction.

"They're in a preliminary investigation right now to determine whether or not they open a full investigation," U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said. "How are we going to deal with the long-term implications of this? Did this only impact just this building?"

Gov. Ron DeSantis took part in that meeting with NIST officials and said the investigation into the cause of the deadly collapse will be lengthy.

"It is something that's going to be very thorough, and it's something that's not going to happen in a day or two. It's going to take a long time," DeSantis said. "The search continues, and it will not stop until there's a resolution."

Aerial view of Champlain Towers South condo collapse, June 27, 2021
This aerial image shows what's left of the oceanfront Champlain Towers South condo building that partially collapsed three days earlier, resulting in fatalities and many people still missing, June 27, 2021, in Surfside, Fla.

Some families have expressed their frustration at the slow pace of the search, which was complicated in the first few days by a smoldering fire that was hampering rescuers' efforts. But improved weather conditions on Sunday "allowed the search-and-rescue effort to move forward without some of the previous challenges that we had faced," Levine Cava said.

A 2018 engineering report showed that the oceanfront Champlain Towers South condominium had "major structural damage" to a concrete slab below its pool deck that needed extensive repairs. The report noted the need for costly repairs to fix the slab, as well as damaged concrete column beams and walls in the parking garage.

Inspection of collapsed building pointed to problems, Champlain Towers South illustration
An earlier report of the Champlain Towers South condo uncovered cracking and spalling of concrete columns, beams and walls.

Levine Cava said that because of the collapse, all buildings under Miami-Dade County's jurisdiction are now being reviewed for safety.

"We're going through every building that has been reviewed to make sure that every problem that's been identified is pursued," Levine Cava said.

Family members of the victims and those who are still missing had an opportunity to visit the Champlain Towers South condominium building Sunday to get an up-close look at the search efforts.

Family members of two of the deceased, Anna Ortiz, 46, and her son, Luis Bermudez, 26, said they will be remembered for their strength and faith.

"She was a warrior of God," Nicole Ortiz said. "She was a woman of God. And I know she had the strength, if she needed to survive, whatever happened, I know God was with them."

A family information and reunification center continues to operate at the Surfside Recreation Center, located at 9301 Collins Avenue, for people who are unable to locate their relatives who live in the building.

You can open a Missing Person Report by clicking here or calling 833-930-3701.

If you live at the Champlain Towers property or you know a person who lives there who has been found safe, click here.

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