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Monday, August 2, 2021

Death toll rises to 20 in Florida condo collapse, 128 people are still unaccounted for

People look at a memorial that has pictures of some of the missing from the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 30, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

At least 20 people are confirmed dead and 128 are unaccounted more than a week after a 12-story condominium building collapsed in Florida, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference Friday morning. 

Levine Cava noted that one of the new bodies recovered is of a child whose father works for the Miami fire department. 

“It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders,” Levine Cava told reporters.

“These men and women are paying an enormous human toll each and every day and I ask that all of you, please keep all of them in your thoughts and prayers. They truly represent the very best in all of us, and we need to be there for them as they are here for us”

Levine Cava said the search for more victims is the first priority of authorities, but plans to demolish the building are moving forward. A demolition could take weeks to complete, she added.

Search-and-rescue operations resumed Thursday night after a day-long halt, with authorities hoping to expand the search area safely.

The halt of search-and-rescue operations Thursday morning was due to structural concerns identified by subject matter experts, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky. 

Investigations are still being conducted on the cause of the collapse. 

Recent evidence indicates that the 40-year-old condominium building had shown signs of major structural damage as far back as 2018, with a report citing issues with waterproofing beneath the pool and cracking in the underground parking garage. 

A video taken on the night of the collapse has also come to light, showing water pouring into the parking garage of the building. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, announced Wednesday evening that it had launched a federal investigation team to investigate the cause of the collapse and develop improved building codes. 

Former NIST director Dr. Walter Copan, who led the agency under then-president Donald Trump until Jan. 2021, told the Miami Herald that it could be a matter of months before NIST provides new facts from the probe. 

“Generally, there will be an initial summary within three to six months to provide a status update to the public,” said Copan, according to the Herald. 

“NIST’s job, first and foremost, is to brief the public regularly within NIST’s lane of technical analysis and root cause of the failure.”

Following President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden’s visit to Surfside Thursday, authorities expressed thanks for their support. 

Aside from visiting first responders and families impacted by the collapse, Biden pledged the federal government would cover 100% of the reimbursements for local governments facing deficits due to the collapse, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Thursday. 

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