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24 dead in Surfside condo collapse, including firefighter's 7-year-old daughter

Authorities: 121 missing as Hurricane Elsa approaches Florida
Surfside building collapse
Posted at 9:40 AM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-03 22:02:01-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said two additional bodies were discovered in the rubble of a collapsed Surfside condominium building on Friday, bringing the death toll to 24 people.

Speaking at a Friday evening news conference, the mayor said 121 people are still missing.

Levine Cava also said she signed a declaration authorizing the demolition of the remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South building, but engineers will need to sign off on the measure.

"We're still evaluating all possible impacts and determining the best timeline to actually begin the demolition," Levine Cava said. "Signing the order now is important so that it can help us move quickly as soon as we've decided the best methodology to demolish and the specific start date."

WATCH EVENING NEWS CONFERENCE:

Death toll in Surfside condo collapse rises to 22 victims

The mayor said the building posed a threat to public health and safety and bringing it down as quickly as possible was critical to protect the community.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Friday that Royal Caribbean has docked the Explorer of Seas cruise ship at PortMiami to providing free housing for search-and-rescue teams.

"This resource will ensure that our search-and-rescue teams have a quiet place to rest and recover from their mental and physical well-being as they work very long hours in the heat," Guthrie said.

He also said that Amazon had donated 500 laundry bags, 2,000 laundry pods and 2,000 dryer sheets specifically to aid in relief efforts.

"The support that we have seen for our first responders has been absolutely incredible," Guthrie said.

Lastly, Guthrie said the federal government would reimburse 100% of recovery efforts from June 24 to July 24 associated with the response to the tragedy.

In a truly tragic and painful development, Levine Cava said earlier in the day one of the victims recovered last night was a 7-year-old girl, who's the daughter of a Miami firefighter.

"Last night was uniquely different. It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders," Levine Cava said. "These men and women are paying an enormous human toll each and every day."

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the girl's body was recovered by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's elite Urban Search and Rescue Team, along with Florida Task Force Two, calling it "unimaginable."

"This tragedy has haunted so many of us, because so many of us know someone who's been in the building or affected by this tragedy," Suarez said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said the discovery of the little's girl body has taken an immense emotional toll on his team.

"Every victim we remove, it's difficult. It's very difficult," Cominsky said. "And last night was even more, when we're removing a fellow firefighter's daughter."

WATCH MORNING NEWS CONFERENCE:

20 dead in Surfside condo collapse, including firefighter's 7-year-old daughter

Cominsky added the child's father was not on duty at the search-and-rescue site when his daughter's body was found.

128 people remain missing and 188 people are accounted for as of Friday. Officials said the number of missing declined after duplicate names were eliminated and some residents who were reported missing turned up safe.

"We know we still have several individuals missing, and that's kind of our primary focus, to see if we have survivors," Cominsky said.

Overshadowing the painstaking search-and-rescue operation is the potential threat of Hurricane Elsa, which is barreling ahead in the Caribbean and could bring tropical storm conditions to South Florida late Monday and early Tuesday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida's Division of Emergency Management is preparing a potential state of emergency declaration due to Elsa, which is currently a Category 1 storm packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.

WPTV Tropical Update, 5 p.m. on July 2, 2021.jpg
WPTV Tropical Update, 2 p.m. on July 2, 2021.
WPTV Tropical Update, 5 p.m. on July 2, 2021 (1).jpg
WPTV Tropical Update, 5 p.m. on July 2, 2021.

RELATED: Elsa causes uncertainty for Surfside search-and-rescue mission

The rescue work was halted early Thursday after crews noticed widening cracks and movement in a large column. Work resumed shortly before 5 p.m. after the site was evaluated by structural engineers.

Officials have begun planning for the likely demolition of the remaining structure, even as searchers continue to comb the rubble pile beneath it.

Levine Cava said engineers are evaluating and testing the site as they work to expand the search area as quickly as possible.

"We are proceeding with our evaluation of all of the factors, all of the time, and the impacts of the demolition of the building," Levine Cava said. "We are going to move expeditiously on decision-making, but it will take some time for the demolition to occur."

President Joe Biden on Friday officially amended Florida's emergency declaration regarding the collapse, allowing the federal government to cover 100% of the costs associated with "debris removal and emergency protective measures" for 30 days starting on June 24.

The collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium building on June 24 killed at least 22 people and left another 128 missing. No one has been rescued since the first hours after the collapse.

The deceased have been identified as:

  • Magaly Elena Delgado, 80
  • Lucia Guara, 10
  • Emma Guara, 4
  • Anaely Rodriguez, 42
  • Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21
  • Hilda Noriega, 92
  • 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
  • Magaly Elena Delgado, 80
  • Maria Obias-Bonnefoy, 69
  • Claudio Bonnefoy, 85
  • Bonnie Epstein, 56

Investigators are looking for information from anyone who witnessed the Surfside building collapse. If you have videos or photos, you're asked to call the Surfside Collapse Witness Tip Line at 305-428-4417 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

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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