SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Emergency workers gave up Wednesday on any hope of finding survivors in the collapsed Florida condo building, telling sobbing families that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble as crews shifted their efforts to recovering more remains.
The announcement followed increasingly somber reports from emergency officials, who said they sought to prepare families for the worst.
The death toll rose to 64, with another 76 people unaccounted for, Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. Detectives are still working to verify that each of those listed as missing was actually in the building when it collapsed.
Levine Cava said teams paused briefly atop the pile to mark the two-week anniversary of the disaster, but there was no let-up in the pace or number of rescuers at the site during the recovery phase.
“The work continues with all speed and urgency,” she said earlier Thursday. “We are working around the clock to recover victims and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can.”
The painstaking search for survivors shifted to a recovery effort at midnight Wednesday after authorities said they had come to the agonizing conclusion that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside.
“When that happened, it took a little piece of the hearts of this community,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose congressional district includes Surfside.
The change from search and rescue to recovery was somber. Hours before the transition Wednesday, rescue workers stood at solemn attention, and clergy members hugged a line of local officials while many of them sobbed.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said Wednesday he expects the recovery effort will take several more weeks.
Hope of finding survivors was briefly rekindled after workers demolished the remainder of the building, allowing rescuers access to new areas of debris.
Some voids where survivors could have been trapped did exist, mostly in the basement and the parking garage, but no one was found alive. Instead, teams recovered more than a dozen additional victims. Because the building fell in the early morning hours, many were found dead in their beds.
No one has been pulled out alive since the first hours after the 12-story building fell on June 24.