The search teams are able to recover victims more quickly from the collapsed condo building in Surfside, Florida, now that the structure is no longer a threat and heavy machinery is able to gain access, Florida Fire Marshall and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said Friday.
On Monday, a day after the demolition of what had remained standing of Champlain Towers South, the death toll stood at 28.
By Saturday morning, the toll had risen to 86, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news conference.
Sixty-two of the 86 victims have been identified, and 43 people are potentially unaccounted for, she said.
Patronis said the crews are paying the same attention to the importance of the work.
One thing I can assure you is the dogs are still on the site. The infrared equipment is still being used. The cameras are still being used. The task forces that are here … are the same level of skills that were here with FEMA task forces, he said. They’re all still working. What’s happening right now is no different than five days ago.
In an interview with CNN, Chief Nichole Notte of the Florida Task Force 2 said there has been an emotional toll for all the workers.
I feel like I’m physically digging, but I’m also emotionally digging for more strength to continue, she said.
Focus on the investigation
Meantime, officials have turned more of their attention to the investigation and to ensuring other structures in the area are safe.
Experts have already begun their investigation by examining Champlain Towers North, a sister building that is substantially the same as the building that came down, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.
We have been in there several times now. We have taken out samples. We’ve done the ground-penetrating radar. We’re trying to determine the amount of steel, the thickness of the slabs, so we’re trying to compile all that information and see exactly if there is some indication of weakness, Burkett told CNN on Friday.
I talked to the engineer today, and he’s ready to make a determination as soon as he gets results back and let the residents of that building know whether he feels they are safe or not.
The north towers building was evacuated for safety concerns.
Burkett said he urged other condo board members in the area to inspect their structure.
We’ve given them a series of boxes to check in order to make sure that their buildings are as safe as they can be, given especially we don’t know why this building fell down, Burkett said.
Patronis said that he thinks it’s important for investigators to compare North and South Champlain Towers.
I’ve advised them to pull the minutes of Champlain Towers North board over the last 40 years and compare to the minutes of South and see if both boards have made the same investments over the last 40 years.