In Miami, search efforts shift from rescue to body recovery

Surfside, Florida (CNN) – At the site of a condo building collapse in the Miami-Dade area, first responders, officials, religious leaders and journalists held a moment of silence Wednesday night in honor of those who lost their lives under the rubble.

The tribute came after Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that the search effort is moving from rescue to recovery. The decision was made after determining that “the viability of life in the rubble” was low, said Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky.

The mayor said the death toll is 54, with 86 people “potentially missing.”

“Nothing we can do can bring back those we have lost, but we can and will do everything we can to identify all the victims and offer closure to families in this time of unimaginable pain to share this news with families. “Levine Cava said.

The scene was mostly monochromatic: gray concrete, gray plaster wall, gray rebar, and gray powder still on the paws of a search dog that stood by during the moment of silence.

But the colors could be found around the corner, where a makeshift shrine adorned a tennis court fence with flowers, photos and a sign that read, “Miami-Dade Search and Rescue Mourns You.”

Religious leaders offered prayers, and at one point an impromptu religious procession unfolded as sisters in brown robes lit candles and marched with a priest holding a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

People raise their hands during a prayer at the memorial site for the victims of the collapsed building.

The transition to a recovery operation officially began at midnight.

“Our team has developed a very detailed plan to guide the transition and ensure that operations proceed at the same speed and intensity,” said Levine Cava.

The way the building collapsed gave the people inside the least chance of survival, said Miami-Dade Fire Department Assistant Chief of Operations Raide Jadallah, referring to the shape as a “pancake.”

“The other factors that we have to include, you know, the fact that we didn’t get the alert (from) a K-9, a sensor trip, sound and any visuals using our cameras. The last known alert we received was on the initial hours on the day of the collapse, “said Jadallah.

A garage damage report emerges

Since the collapse, many officials and residents have been wondering: what caused the collapse? And did the builders association do enough to prevent it from happening?

The Miami-Dade County chief prosecutor said Wednesday that she had formally commissioned a grand jury to investigate the cause of the collapse.

In a statement, state attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she also asked the investigating jury to “investigate how we can prevent this disaster from happening again, not just in Surfside, and not just in condominiums, but in all buildings. and structures in the coastal, intercoastal and surrounding areas of our county, state and nation. “

Investigative juries are groups of residents who generally have subpoena powers and work secretly with local prosecutors to investigate problems. In Florida, they can produce a report on an issue that is not necessarily related to criminal charges.

Since part of the building collapsed on June 24, there have been reports of damage to the building, cracks in the concrete and disputes over repair work. Although they have sparked speculation about the cause, officials have said they have not identified a single trigger for the collapse.

A new detail emerged Wednesday through a police report released by the city of Surfside to CNN, which revealed that a car accident in the basement garage in 2016 caused visible damage to a concrete pole.

The driver of a BMW sedan said he “accidentally stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake” before hitting a second car and then the post, according to the report filed just after the crash.

A garage accident has been one of the theories raised by engineers who reviewed the collapse as a possible contributing factor, and the 2016 accident, which has not been previously reported, would likely be another piece of evidence considered by investigators. But engineers who spoke to CNN cautioned that it could be insignificant, especially considering when it took place.

“I would think that if the vehicle hit the spine was a factor, I would normally find it very close to the time of the accident,” said Richard Slider, a structural engineer who advises on building construction.

CNN has reached out to a spokesperson for the building’s apartment board for comment and the city for more information.

Members of search and rescue teams gather for a moment of silence and prayer at the memorial to the victims in the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building.

Members of search and rescue teams gather for a moment of silence and prayer at the memorial for the victims of the Champlain Towers South building.

Evacuations Raise Concern Over Increase in Homelessness

In the wake of the catastrophe, a Safety Task Force was created to review the laws governing Florida’s apartment development industry, according to a statement Tuesday.

The team will also “recommend whether legislative or regulatory changes should be enacted to minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy,” said Bob Swain, president of the Florida Bar’s Trusts, Estates and Real Estate Law Section, in a statement. .

City and county officials have already begun audits and inspections of residential condominium buildings in the surrounding areas, and so far, three have raised concerns.

One in Miami-Dade County had a problem with four balconies. Another in Miami Beach required the evacuation of a three-story building.

By far the biggest impact has been in North Miami Beach, where Crestview Towers South’s 156 units were evacuated Friday after officials said the building was deemed structurally and electrically unsafe.

In the hours after the evacuations, about 300 people were left without a place to live, according to Ron Book, president of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

“It’s taking what you can take, what you can put in a suitcase, what you can put in a shopping bag or carry in your arms and go,” Book said. “That’s what they had to deal with.”

The book says that the families first received immediate shelter in the E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition and were later placed in hotels. But as more and more buildings are inspected, Book fears there may be an increase in the number of homeless people.

The president said, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I am concerned, as I have always been, that we will not have the resources, the housing resources to take care of those we must take care of.”

CNN’s David Shortell, Rosa Flores, John Couwels, and Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.

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