The death toll in the Surfside condo collapse has climbed to 86 overnight, up from 79 reported Friday, Miami-Dade Mayor Danielle Levine Cava said at a daily briefing Saturday.
It’s been 17 days, and now the third Shabbat, since the initial collapse of the Champlain Towers South in the tight-knit Jewish community within the city. Crews are still working tirelessly to recover the bodies of victims, despite having to pause briefly Saturday morning due to lightning; however, recovery teams were able to resume operations in less than an hour.
“Shabbat Shalom. Today’s the Sabbath, and I just wanted to speak about praise and gratitude, because, in representing my community, we have nothing but praise and gratitude for all the help we’ve received from everybody,” Surfside Vice Mayor Tina Paul said at the Saturday briefing.
Crews have now identified 62 of the bodies recovered, and have notified next-of-kin for 61. Teams are still working on the unaccounted-for list. In her most recent update, Levine Cava said 211 people are now accounted for, and 43 individuals are potentially unaccounted for.
“We can only truly account for a missing person who is deceased once the identification is made,” Levine Cava said. “As all of these efforts continue, the numbers will continue to change.”
The Israeli Defense Force is also expected to leave the scene tonight after responding to the collapse along with hundreds of emergency personnel, Paul said at the briefing.
Levine Cava also reviewed the precautions taken by first responders at the scene, after three recovery workers were injured on Friday. One front-line worker had been injured by machinery on-site, and another’s foot was run over by a vehicle.
“Hazardous materials technicians are constantly sampling and monitoring the air quality, and all first responders on the pile and in the surrounding area, wear proper protective gear, including masks,” Levine Cava said.
Crews are working to remove debris at an “intense” rate, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, adding that the stress of their efforts will likely clear the scene earlier than anticipated.
“It’s astounding the pace at which they’re working to get that rubble out of there,” Burkett said. “Given the current pace, it appears very likely that the site will be cleared a lot earlier than expected.”
Burkett also announced that he will be establishing a fund for Surfside businesses that have had to shut down in response to the collapse.
“While we continue to support the families with every resource we have, including financial resources, I want to announce I’m putting together a fund for downtown businesses who have been shut down the entire time this tragedy has been unfolding,” Burkett said. “While they were shut down, they have been making food for support teams, search and rescue teams and others. Given their generosity and compassion, I feel it’s my duty to do whatever I can do to help them get them through this difficult time, which is only compounded by the stress they went through during last year’s COVID pandemic.”