Condo toll rises, nearby tower evacuated

·3-min read

The death toll has risen to 22 from the collapse of a Florida condominium tower after the remains of four more victims were found in the rubble, and local officials ordered a second residential complex evacuated after deeming it unsafe.

All residents of Crestview Towers were told to leave immediately after engineers found serious concrete and electrical problems, said Arthur Sorey, city manager for North Miami Beach.

The move on Friday was considered urgent due to the approach of Hurricane Elsa, which is forecast to hit Florida as early as Monday. The building's owners had not yet begun a mandatory safety recertification process required 40 years after it was built, he said.

"It's definitely not an easy decision," Sorey said. "It's just the right thing to do during these times. It's uncertain what's going to happen with the storm."

The latest remains recovered from the rubble left behind by the 12-storey Champlain Towers South in nearby Surfside left 126 people listed as still missing and feared dead.

No survivors have been pulled alive from the ruins since the first few hours after the tower partially caved in on itself early on June 24.

The number of people on the missing list dropped by 17 from Thursday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters, saying the totals were "fluid" and sometimes revised through work by investigators.

Levine Cava said she had signed a demolition order for a remaining section of the tower over worries it was dangerously unstable halted search and rescue efforts at the scene for much of Thursday.

The operation was scaled back on Friday to three of the nine grids mapped out across the debris field.

Crews also sought to make progress before the expected arrival of Elsa, which strengthened into the first hurricane of the 2021 season on Friday as it churned in the Caribbean Sea.

The storm could approach South Florida as early as Monday, the National Weather Service said, with tropical storm-force winds possible on Sunday.

Among the dead found in Surfside on Friday was the daughter of a firefighter, the third child fatality to be recovered so far.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told the Miami Herald the firefighter was at the recovery site at the time, though not digging through the rubble.

The man and his brother, also a firefighter, have kept a vigil at the site since last week, the Herald said.

About 200 officers saluted as her body was carried away, according to the paper.

"Every victim we remove is very difficult," Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said.

"Last night was even more, when we were removing a fellow firefighter's daughter. As firefighters, we do what we do - it's kind of a calling. But it still takes a toll."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote on Twitter that more than 400 members of the US Army Reserve from Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Virginia had arrived in Surfside to assist in the effort.

Investigators have not determined what caused the 40-year-old condo complex to crumble abruptly into a heap in what may ultimately be one of the deadliest building collapses in US history.

A 2018 engineering report prepared for the 40-year recertification process found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries that include a grand jury examination.

Several lawsuits have already been filed on behalf of survivors and victims against the condo association's board.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting