Authorities said 94 deaths have now been confirmed in last month’s collapse of a 12-story building in Surfside, Florida. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Monday that 83 victims have been identified.
Levine Cava said 22 people were potentially unaccounted for in the recovery operation, noting that victims remain unaccounted for until they’re identified. On Sunday, authorities said they hope to conclude their painstaking work in the coming weeks.
Crews continued to search the remaining pile of rubble, peeling away layer after layer of debris in search of bodies. The unrelenting search has resulted in the recovery of more than 14 million pounds of concrete and debris, Levine Cava said Sunday.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said on CBSN investigators are continuing to look for the cause of the collapse.
“We have no idea why that building fell down,” Burkett said. “That building should have never fallen down.”
The mayor said authorities were looking at an almost identical building, built one block away by same developer with virtually the same plans.
“We are really digging into that building,” Burkett said, adding that core samples taken of the building’s concrete looked good and more samples were being taken Monday.
“We are sort of really rushing to see if we can find some clues as to why that first building fell down based upon the construction and the design of the second building, which we obviously have concerns about also,” Burkett said.
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said it was uncertain when recovery operations would be completed because it remains hard to know when the final body would be found.
When the recovery phase began Wednesday, officials were hoping it could be done within three weeks. In an interview Sunday morning near the site, Cominsky said it might now be as few as two weeks, based on the current pace of work.
“We were looking at a 14-day to 21-day timeframe,” he said, adding that the timeline remained “a sliding scale.”
Also on Sunday, a statement from Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who helped other local officials in Surfside following the collapse, said he and his chief of staff Isidoro Lopez came down with flu-like symptoms earlier in the day and later tested positive for COVID-19. Both officials are vaccinated.
“Staff and others who have been in close contact with them will be getting tested between today and tomorrow,” the news release said. The statement also said Diaz and Lopez would be isolating and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diaz had participated in news conferences and meetings with other officials in Surfside, the Miami Herald reported. Levine Cava told reporters Monday that officials were tested for COVID-19 and rapid tests returned negative results.
“Breakthrough” infections — fully vaccinated individuals who contract the coronavirus — do happen, although they are very rare. An Associated Press analysis of government data in May showed only about 1% of such cases resulted in hospitalization or death. The analysis suggested that nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. recently have been in people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths could approach zero if every eligible person gets the vaccine.
Last week, Florida health officials reported an increase in COVID-19 cases and a higher positive test rate compared with other recent weeks.
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