Number of missing in Florida collapse revised down while nearby tower evacuated

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Number Of Missing In Florida Collapse Revised Down While Nearby Tower Evacuated
A dog assists search and rescue personnel atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Terry Spencer, Associated Press

The number of people missing in the Florida condominium collapse has been revised down, while a different nearby tower was evacuated after engineers found unsafe conditions in the building.

The nearby city of North Miami Beach announced that an audit prompted by the deadly collapse of Champlain Towers found the 156-unit Crestview Towers building structurally and electrically unsafe.

City manager Arthur H Sorey III said in a news release: “In an abundance of caution, the City ordered the building closed immediately and the residents evacuated for their protection, while a full structural assessment is conducted and next steps are determined.”

The evacuation comes as municipal officials in South Florida and statewide are scrutinising older high-rises in the wake of the collapse to ensure that serious structural problems are not being ignored.

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Our top priority is search and rescue. We will take no action that will jeopardise our search-and-rescue efforts


 

Crestview Towers residents could be seen on Friday evening hauling suitcases and packing items into cars outside the building, which was constructed in 1972. City officials were trying to help residents find places to go.

Meanwhile, authorities in Surfside said four more bodies had emerged from the rubble, including the seven-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, bringing the confirmed death toll to 22.

But there was also relief. Closer inspection of missing persons list reduced the number from 145 to 126 after duplicate names were eliminated and some residents reported missing turned up safe, officials said.

“So this is very, very good news,” Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, adding the numbers were expected to keep changing because detectives are continually reviewing the list and verifying reports.

In some cases, when detectives were able to contact people who had been reported as potentially missing, they found that not only were they safe, but other members of their families were safe too.

That pushed the list of people who have been accounted for up to 188 and cut the number of missing, she said.

Detectives have worked around the clock to contact relatives and others. In some cases, English and Hebrew names have been offered for the same missing relative, officials have said.

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Ms Levine Cava said the discovery of the seven-year-old girl’s remains was especially hard on rescuers.

She said: “It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders.

“These men and woman are paying an enormous human toll each and every day, and I ask that all of you please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”

The mayor also said she signed an emergency order to demolish the remaining part of the building once engineers have signed off on it.


The number of people still missing has been revised down to 126 (Mark Humphrey/AP)

According to officials, it will likely be weeks before the demolition is scheduled.

Ms Levine Cava said: “Our top priority is search and rescue. We will take no action that will jeopardise our search-and-rescue efforts.

“The building poses a threat to public health and safety.”

No one has been rescued since the first hours after the June 24 collapse.

During a meeting on Friday with relatives of the missing, Miami-Dade assistant fire chief Raide Jadallah said that only one voice has been heard during the entire search.

A woman’s voice was detected until about 10am or 11am on the morning of the collapse, which happened around 1:30am. Rescuers were unable to reach her, and he said no other voices or human sounds have been heard since.

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Mr Jadallah also prepared the families for a possible suspension of the search if Hurricane Elsa — now in the eastern Caribbean — brings strong winds to South Florida that would make the work too dangerous.

Search efforts have been stopped briefly several times because of inclement weather.

Some rescue workers who are now staying in tents will be moved to cruise ships, which can stay safe during a tropical storm, Mr Jadallah said.


About 600 first responders will stay on the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas, the cruise line said.

The ship, which can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers, began housing rescue teams on Thursday and likely will continue for the next month.

Friday’s announcements came the day after concerns about the structure’s instability prompted a 15-hour halt to the search for survivors. Crews noticed widening cracks and up to a foot of movement in a large column.

The cause of the collapse is under investigation.

A 2018 engineering report found that the building’s ground-floor pool deck was resting on a concrete slab that had “major structural damage” and needed extensive repairs.

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The report also found “abundant cracking” of concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.

Just two months before the building came down, the president of its board wrote a letter to residents saying that structural problems identified in the 2018 inspection had “gotten significantly worse” and that major repairs would cost at least £15.5 million dollars (11.16 million).

With bids for the work still pending, the building suddenly collapsed last Thursday.

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