Search of collapsed condo building shifts from rescue to recovery

Terry Spencer and Adriana Gomez Licon
The Associated Press

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Rescue workers who have labored for 14 days to find survivors in the rubble of a collapsed Florida condo building have shifted their efforts from rescue to recovery. Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told families on Wednesday that after searching all areas of debris, they have concluded that it will now be next to impossible to find people alive.

The decision to transition to a recovery effort starting Wednesday night came after rescuers finished searching new areas of rubble that became accessible after workers demolished the still-standing portion of Champlain Towers South. Rescuers had hoped to find pockets where people could have survived in the new areas. Instead they found more than a dozen victims, many of them dead in their beds.

The death toll as of Wednesday stood at 46, with 94 unaccounted for. The building collapsed early June 24 when many residents were asleep.

Rescue crews pulled 10 more bodies from the rubble Wednesday.

Crews “did some significant removal of the pile,” Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said Wednesday. “They were able to get down to various areas to inspect.”

But rescuers still have not discovered any new “voids,” or pockets in the rubble that might have harbored survivors, Jadallah said.

No one has been rescued from the site since the first hours after the building collapse.

The emotional toll mounted as officials fought back tears and lamented the ordeal of exhausted families still awaiting word on missing loved ones.

During a news conference, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava repeatedly tried not to weep, paused and shook her head as she described the effect of the tragedy on rescue workers and the families of the victims.

“Our commitment to this mission is deeply personal. This is our community, our neighbors, our families. And our first responders have searched that pile every single day since the collapse as if they’re searching for their own loved ones,” she said.