The death toll from last month’s partial collapse of a condominium tower in Surfside, Fla., increased to 86 on Saturday, while officials evacuated portions of a high-rise Miami courtroom due to structural concerns.
Teams searching for and recovering bodies have been able to access parts of the rubble they were not previously able to reach officials noted Saturday, leading to the increase in the number of victims recovered.
Search efforts switched from rescue to recovery Wednesday after seeing no signs of survivors in nearly two weeks of searching for people unaccounted for and believed to be lost in the debris of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla.
More than 200 people had been working almost continuously to find victims and survivors since the building partially collapsed on June 24.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during an update on recovery efforts that out of the 86 victims, 62 have been identified.
“Please pray for all those who have lost loved ones and whose hearts are broken from this unspeakable tragedy and for those who are still waiting,” she said.
Overall, 211 people have been accounted for, and 43 are still potentially unaccounted for, the mayor added.
“We’re continuing the work on the audit of the list to get an accurate count of those unaccounted for,” Cava said.
The last section of the condominium skyscraper was demolished on Sunday night, just in time for Tropical Storm Elsa.
The reason of the tragic collapse is still being investigated, but engineers noted “major structural damage” in a 2018 survey report, highlighting columns in the condo’s garage that needed to be rebuilt, according to ABC News and CNN.
Following the condo collapse, reviews of other high-rise buildings resulted in the evacuation last weekend of an unit in North Miami Beach that was declared “structurally and electrically unsafe” in January.
More recently, following the fatal collapse, a study of the 28-story Miami-Dade County Courthouse resulted in the closure of floors 16 and higher.
Cava stated in a joint statement with Miami-Dade Court Chief Judge Nushin Sayfie and Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin that an engineering firm advised shutting the higher levels to employees for emergency repairs.
According to the statement, after the engineer’s report, all personnel, including those working on lower levels, have been ordered to work remotely. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, staff had already been working remotely for the last year and had just lately returned to the premises.
Mourners stop to pay respects to the missing victims at the memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church near the collapsed Champlain Towers condo in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein