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Florida Condo Collapse Crews Shift from Rescue to Recovery


A man places flowers on a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Surfside's Champlain Towers South condominium collapse in Miami, Florida, July 8, 2021.

Crews working at the site of a condominium collapse in the U.S. state of Florida have shifted from focusing on finding possible survivors to an operation to recover the bodies of victims after determining there was no chance anyone in the rubble could still be alive.

The change Thursday comes two weeks after the building in Surfside partially collapsed around 1:15 a.m. on June 24.

The death toll rose to 64 later Thursday, with about 76 people still unaccounted for, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Levine Cava said detectives are still working to determine how many people were inside the building at the time of its collapse.

FILE - The rubble of the collapsed building Champlain tower is seen in Surfside, Florida, July 6, 2021.
FILE - The rubble of the collapsed building Champlain tower is seen in Surfside, Florida, July 6, 2021.

"We are working around the clock to recover victims and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can," Levine Cava told reporters.

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said at a Wednesday evening briefing that the way the building fell, with floors stacking on top of one another, left very few spaces where a person could survive.

He said the last known alert of any sign of life came in the initial hours after the collapse, and that since then, no signs were picked up by search dogs, sonar equipment or cameras.

"Fourteen days of looking for voids, that's what we've been doing," Jadallah said. "Initially, it was looking for victims that were trapped, and then it kind of shifted to, 'God, give us a large enough void to find a victim.' And we just couldn't."

Levine Cava said the focus now will be on helping bring closure to families who have been waiting for news about their loved ones, and that every effort will be made to identify all the victims. She said sharing the news of the end of the search and rescue phase with the families Wednesday evening was "devastating."

Those at the site came together to observe a moment of silence Wednesday evening to mark what Levine Cava called a "solemn moment of transition."