Nearly two weeks after the last victims of the Surfside, Florida, residential condo building collapse were extracted from the rubble alive, emergency teams have made the decision to switch from a search and rescue effort over to a recovery effort.
According to The Associated Press, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah informed families Wednesday afternoon that they would no longer use dogs and listening devices, both of which were deployed when rescue teams were looking for survivors. “Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” said Jadallah.
As of Wednesday evening, shortly after 5:00 p.m., the official death toll was at 54, of whom 33 have been identified. In addition, the whereabouts of 86 people are still unknown to officials, which means that they may or may not have been in the building.
“At this point we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search and rescue mission,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a press conference Wednesday evening. “So today is about beginning the transition to recovery so that we can help to bring closure to the families who have been suffering and waiting for news.”
Levine Cava said the official transition to a recovery effort would happen at midnight.
Before the Wednesday announcement, officials had been forced to pause the search and rescue efforts due to safety concerns, once because they feared the rubble was too unstable. More recently, crews were moved out of the way so that what remained of the 12-story building could be demolished, a move officials hoped would give them access to specific pockets of rubble where they’d find others. However, no one was found alive.
“Crews worked under arduous conditions, through rain, smoke, fire and even imminent danger of a secondary collapse,” said Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky, who praised first responders and emergency crews for their actions.
The mayor of Surfside said that while the chances of finding anyone alive were near zero, he had not lost hope that a miracle could still happen.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, one of the few signs of life came on the same day of the collapse, when rescuers received reports of a woman shouting from a lower level.
The woman, who was trapped inside the caved-in garage, told rescuers, “I’m here, get me out. Get me out,” according to a rescue worker who spoke to Local News 10 on the condition of anonymity, reported the news agency last week.
But with a wall of concrete and metal blocking their way, rescuers were unable to reach her in time. “We were continuously talking to her … ‘Honey, we got you. We’re going to get to you,’” said the source. It’s unclear who she was or if she could hear the rescuers.
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