At least 64 people dead in Florida condo collapse, 76 missing with hope for survivors 'near zero'

Key Points
  • At least 64 people are confirmed dead and 76 unaccounted for in the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.
  • The transition from a rescue effort to a recovery operation occurred Wednesday night, as authorities have almost no hope of finding survivors.
Search teams continue work to recover remains as the search and rescue efforts is reported to be transitioning to a recovery operation in the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on July 07, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

At least 64 are confirmed dead and 76 unaccounted for after the search at the site of a collapsed Florida condominium building shifted from rescue to recovery overnight, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"The work continues with all speed and urgency, all task forces are being deployed from across the country and the world," Levine Cava said. "We are working around the clock to recover victims, and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can."

Two weeks after the collapse, authorities announced the shift from a search effort to a recovery operation Wednesday night as hope dwindled for finding more survivors in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.

The transition from rescue to recovery occurred Wednesday night and was marked by a moment of silence in front of the building site with first responders and faith leaders, Levine Cava said.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Wednesday that the decision to shift to a recovery operation came after a consensus that "the possibility of someone still alive is near zero."

However, Burkett said Thursday afternoon that authorities are committed to continuing to search for victims.

"We will not stop working until they've gotten to the bottom of the pile and recovered every single one of the family's missing loved ones. It's what we've said all along," Burkett said.

Levine Cava added that search teams are beginning to collect any personal items on the site, such as documents, credit cards, technology devices or religious items. A process is being developed to return items to families and survivors that file reports for missing belongings.

"We work hard in the weeks and months ahead to reunite family members with whatever items are possible," Levine Cava said.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, is still investigating the cause of the collapse, Levine Cava said. NIST teams have been scanning the site using lidar scanners, a tool that uses light detection to measure the exact distance of an object on the earth's surface, and drones to collect images for the probe. 

Levine Cava also urged the public to assist the investigation by submitting any photos or videos related to the collapse to NIST.

Burkett provided updates on the evaluation of Champlain Towers North, the sister property of the collapsed condo building. In addition to using ground penetrating radars at the north tower, engineers and authorities haven taken samples of concrete to determine the strength and potential salt content of the structure.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said authorities are continuing to monitor weather conditions after Elsa was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Wednesday. DeSantis said there was one reported death after a tree fell on an individual, and noted concerns about water and modest winds from the storm.

DeSantis added that he and Levine Cava are working to suspend any kind of property tax enforcement. They will ask the legislature to remit any property tax liability from Champlain Towers South.

Rescue workers with the Miami Dade Fire Rescue embrace after a moment of silence near the memorial site for victims of the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on July 07, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

Levine Cava said Wednesday night that Miami-Dade County is continuing to conduct a 30-day audit to evaluate all residential properties above four stories that are 40 years or older and have not completed a recertification process.

Forty buildings have been accounted for under the audit, and authorities identified one building with four balconies that are unsafe, Levine Cava said Wednesday. Cities such as Surfside, North Miami Beach and Miami Beach are conducting their own audits as well.

Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the collapse of Champlain Towers South.

A report from 2018 reveals that the 40-year-old building had shown signs of major structural damage, with cracking in the underground parking garage and waterproofing issues beneath the pool.

Recent reports also show that the repeal of a Florida law in 2010 that required condominium buildings to plan for repairs may have also contributed to the collapse.