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1 additional death brings number of victims to 12 in Surfside condominium collapse

President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden to visit Surfside on Thursday
Rescuers work in rubble of Champlain Towers South collapse site, June 29, 2021
Posted at 10:20 AM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 19:44:29-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Officials said Tuesday evening there was one additional death in the Surfside condominium collapse, bringing the toll to 12 victims.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said there are now 149 people still missing.

The mayor said there is an audit of the list of missing people, which is being updated. The Family Assistance Center has been expanded with three psychotherapists and 20 different organizations providing support.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said they are asking the federal government for an additional urban search and rescue team to help at the site.

"Most likely that team will be deployed from the eastern seaboard, possibly Virginia," Guthrie said. "We're working around clock to ensure our local partners have everything that they need to successfully respond to this incident."

1 additional death brings number of victims to 12 in Surfside condominium collapse

The state emergency director said he and Gov. Ron DeSantis met with FEMA representatives to discuss additional ways to help with rescue and recovery efforts.

Guthrie said the best way for the public to help those affected is through a cash donation.

Members of the public wishing to help families affected by the tragedy are encouraged to do so at either SupportSurfside.org or NeighborsForNeighbors.

Volunteers can sign up to help families by visiting VolunteerMiami or VolunteerFlorida.

"Volunteers should never self deploy," Guthrie said. "We need it to be in a coordinated fashion."

The mayor said structural engineers at the site say the remaining portion of the building still standing is unstable but not a risk of collapsing.

"We are no longer entering into the building," Levine Kava said.

WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE:

No additional deaths as search-and-rescue at Surfside condominium enters sixth day

The deceased have been identified as:

  • Marcus Joseph Guara, 52
  • Frank Kleiman, 55
  • Michael David Altman, 50
  • Leon Oliwkowicz, 80
  • Luis Bermudez, 26
  • Anna Ortiz, 46
  • Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74
  • Stacie Dawn Fang, 54
  • Antonio Lozano, 83
  • Gladys Lozano, 79
  • Manuel LaFont, 54

The White House said President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Surfside on Thursday to tour the damage at the Champlain Towers South condominium building, spend time with the families of the victims and missing, and meet with first responders.

"We've had his support since he called me day one in the morning, and this is so critical that we do have our federal support," Levine Cava said. "So we are very grateful for that."

Biden on Tuesday was asked about visiting South Florida before boarding Marine One at the White House.

"Yes, I hope so," Biden told reporters . "As soon as we can. Maybe as early as Thursday."

PRESIDENT TALKS SURFSIDE:

President Joe Biden talks traveling to Florida

With the painstaking and grueling search-and-rescue effort now in its sixth day, Levine Cava said during an 11:30 a.m. news conference that 210 first responders are currently working on the mound of rubble in 12-hour shifts.

"They live to save lives, and that is what we are witnessing," Levine Cava said. "We truly have the best in the world conducting this effort."

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said crews are carrying a search grid layer-by-layer and removing chunks of debris piece-by-piece.

Cominsky said first responders have moved approximately three million pounds of concrete and are using sonar and video equipment to search for any signs of life in the tight, enclosed spaces of the rubble.

"This is a very tedious effort," Cominsky said. "It's methodical, very difficult process. As we're removing debris, we're just finding more debris that's just, concrete pulverized. It's extremely difficult."

"Those first responders are breaking their back trying to find anybody they can," Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "And they are gonna continue to do that."

Miami-Dade County is currently conducting a building audit on all properties under the county's jurisdiction that are due for their 40-year certifications -- as the Champlain Towers property was before its collapse -- to ensure they're up to code and safe.

"We're taking swift action to immediately identify and address any outstanding issues with the buildings that have not yet completed their 40-year certification process," Levine Cava said.

About 40 buildings are being reviewed as part of the audit, and any issues that have come up have been mostly electrical, not structural.

However, the mayor added that a building in northeast Miami-Dade County was flagged during the audit, and four balconies were immediately closed to residents due to safety conditions.

The work has been deliberate and treacherous. Thunderstorms rolled through the area Tuesday morning, and debris fell onto the search area overnight from the shattered edge of the part of the building that still stands, forcing rescuers to mark a "Don't Go Beyond Here" line and focus their efforts parts of the debris pile that are farther from the structure, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told WSVN.

Authorities are meeting frequently with families to explain what they're doing and answer questions. Burkett said he spoke with family members on Tuesday morning, and many of them asked why the search-and-rescue efforts have to stop when there are thunderstorms and lightning.

"The speaker said, [the first responders] are already risking their lives anyway. They're working under a building that could fall down. Why do we have to stop for lightning?" Burkett said. "It was an interesting question and [the fire chief] said he would get back to them."

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett speaks at a news conference on June 29, 2021.jpg
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett speaks at a news conference on June 29, 2021.

Burkett said other family members asked authorities how long people can survive underneath rubble of this magnitude.

"There didn't seem to be a good answer to that," Burkett said. "Nobody is giving up hope here. Nobody is stopping. The work goes on full-force. We're dedicated to get everyone out of that pile of rubble and reunite them with their families."

A "Support Surfside" fund has currently raised $1.6 million for those impacted by the devastating building collapse. If you want to make a donation, click here.

RELATED: Most residents of twin Surfside condo staying put after collapse

Rescuers are using bucket brigades and heavy machinery as they work atop a precarious mound of pulverized concrete, twisted steel, and the remnants of dozens of households. The efforts include firefighters, sniffer dogs, and search experts using radar and sonar devices.

Authorities said it's still a search-and-rescue operation, but no one has been found alive since hours after the collapse early Thursday.

"We continue moving forward and continue pushing. And we'll see where we're at at the end," Cominsky said.

The Champlain Towers South condominium building collapsed just days before a deadline for condo owners to start making steep payments toward more than $9 million in repairs that had been recommended nearly three years earlier in a report that warned of "major structural damage."

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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