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Florida condo building collapse death toll rises to 9, dozens still missing

Officials are working to identify additional sets of human remains found at the site of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside early Thursday.
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The death toll in the high-rise condo building collapse in the Miami Beach area has risen to nine people, with another 10 people injured and dozens of residents still unaccounted for.

One of the injured residents died in the hospital and additional remains were found among the wreckage, bringing the death toll up to nine, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

Officials also found additional sets of unidentified human remains at the site of the Champlain Towers South, which collapsed in Florida’s Surfside suburb Thursday.

First responders are searching the debris with canines and sonar technology to locate all the remaining residents. More than 150 people are unaccounted for in the collapse.

Four of the confirmed victims were identified by Miami police as Stacie Dawn Fang, 54; Antonio Lozano, 83; Gladys Lozano, 79; and Manuel LaFont, 54.

The department identified four more victims on Sunday night: Leon Oliwkowicz, 80; Luis Bermudez, 26; Anna Ortiz, 46; and Christina Beatriz Elvira, 76.

The wreckage will be home to a rescue effort “for the indefinite future,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Sunday.

“We are not stopping until we pull every resident out of that rubble...we have two objectives now,” Burkett said. “That is to support the family and to stay focused, to keep those rescue crews on that pile of debris bringing out residents. We have waves and waves of rescue teams that are ready to step up.”

Engineers are closely monitoring the site to ensure the infrastructure is safe for search and rescue teams to continue their efforts, as part of the condominium complex did remain intact following the collapse. A team from Israel is also assisting with the search and rescue efforts, officials said.

People mourn at the memorial site created by neighbors in front of the partially collapsed building where the rescue personnel continue their search for victims in Surfside, Fla., on June 26, 2021.
People mourn at the memorial site created by neighbors in front of the partially collapsed building where the rescue personnel continue their search for victims in Surfside, Fla., on June 26, 2021.Maria Alejandra Cardona / Reuters

Burkett announced a charity fund for the families affected by the collapse in a joint conference with Miami Beach Mayor Francis Suarez, private equity founder Orlando Bravo and the Miami Heat Charitable Fund. More than a million dollars has been raised already for the trust over the weekend.

The fund will help provide relocation assistance and other help to families in the interim until insurance and federal aid comes in, according to Bravo, who donated $250,000 from his philanthropy foundation.

“And secondly, to provide mental health services for that long period of time that people are going to need to work through and cope with this,” Bravo said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Thursday, bringing in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal assistance, such as the Army Corps of Engineers. A number of families have already been registered for individual aid, FEMA Director Deanne Criswell said on Sunday.

Though the reason behind the collapse is still unknown, documents related to the Champlain Towers released by officials revealed previous concerns about the building's structural integrity. The findings from engineering consultant Frank Morabito showed there was “abundant cracking” and crumbling in the underground parking garage of the 12-story building, according to a 2018 report.

Morabito also said the waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive was failing, “causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas.” He gave no indication that the building was in imminent danger, but he said that it needed repairs, which would be aimed at maintaining the building’s structural integrity.

“Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion,” he said.

Officials said there would be "changes" to Florida law regarding building codes following the collapse, but did not detail what any new legislation might entail. DeSantis told reporters that recovery efforts and family assistance are the primary focus at the moment, but that getting a "definitive explanation" on the cause of the collapse was important.

"I will say now, this building was built in the early '80s ... South Florida has some of the most stringent building codes in the country," DeSantis said. "And so I have a lot of confidence that what's being built in the here and now are being done very, very, well."