Death Toll at Surfside Building Collapse Rises to 9

Rescuers at the site of a collapsed building in Surfside , Fla., recovered more bodies and intensified efforts, including digging an eno...


Rescuers at the site of a collapsed building in Surfside, Fla., recovered more bodies and intensified efforts, including digging an enormous trench, as they run out of time to find survivors four days after the disaster.

The death toll climbed to nine on Sunday as additional bodies and remains were found at Champlain Towers South, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said at a news conference.

On Sunday night, the Miami-Dade Police Department announced it had identified four more victims: Leon Oliwkowicz, 80; Luis Bermudez, 26; Anna Ortiz, 46; and Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74. The bodies of Mr. Oliwkowicz, Mr. Bermudez and Ms. Ortiz were recovered on Saturday; Ms Ortiz was recovered on Sunday.

Mr. Bermudez’s father, also named Luis Bermudez, confirmed his son’s death on social media. In a note penned by the elder Mr. Bermudez in Spanish, he wrote: “My Luiyo. You gave me everything … I will miss you all of my life. We’ll see each other soon. I will never leave you alone.”

The younger Mr. Bermudez was a fashion graphic designer, according to his website. On his Instagram biography he described himself as, “Just a guy with big dreams and ideas. Creative in every way and looking to collaborate with artists. Making my way up. Blessed.”

More than 300 emergency personnel are working 24 hours a day, and the Army Corps of Engineers has been called in to help.

“We are not resource-poor,” said Mayor Charles W. Burkett of Surfside on Sunday morning on ABC News. “We don’t have a resource problem, we’ve had a luck problem. We just need to start to get a little more lucky right now.”

Ms. Levine Cava said that more bodies and remains were recovered when rescuers began to dig a trench into the pile of debris overnight on Saturday. She said the trench, which will be about 125 feet long — roughly the width of a football field — 20 feet wide and 40 feet deep, will serve as a critical way to assist in the operation.

As of Sunday evening, there were still 152 people unaccounted for, officials said. Of the nine people confirmed dead, one died in the hospital and eight were recovered at the scene of the collapse. Officials continued to say Sunday evening that they remain hopeful in their search for survivors, but also said that they had found no natural voids in the rubble and that they had stopped hearing noises that could indicate the presence of survivors a while ago. Officials added that they have had some difficulty contacting the family members of some of the victims and urged them to get in touch soon.

Officials had previously identified four victims: Antonio Lozano, 83, and Gladys Lozano, 79, of Apartment 903; Manuel LaFont, 54, of Apartment 801; and Stacie Fang, 54, of Apartment 1002. The bodies of Ms. Fang and Mr. Lozano were recovered on Thursday; Ms. Lozano and Mr. LaFont on Friday.

Just hours before Mr. LaFont was confirmed as one of the dead on Saturday, his ex-wife, Adriana LaFont, expressed hope to reporters outside of the family reunification center at the Grand Beach Hotel that he could make it out alive from the rubble. Mr. LaFont, a businessman who worked with Latin American companies, leaves behind a 10-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.

The search has been painstakingly slow, hampered at times by smoke from a fire beneath the rubble. Officials have begun to receive extra help from an Israeli rescue team, requested by several family members whose relatives were missing in the rubble. Officials said that family members had expressed more optimism and were more encouraged when the Israeli team arrived.

Erika Benitez, the spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said that rescuers are moving as fast as they can and have not stopped working, even though their work looks slow. Rescue workers are taking a strategic approach, officials added, taking care to not shift the rubble, put excessive weight on it or cause another collapse.

“Moving something that could cause an additional collapse would be negligent,” Ms. Benitez said in Spanish.

The mission of search and rescue teams remains to look for survivors, but because of the magnitude of the disaster, Ms. Benitez said more deaths are inevitable.

“It takes a toll to work days on end and not find any life,” said Margarita Castro, a member of Florida’s Task Force 1 at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Death Toll at Surfside Building Collapse Rises to 9
Death Toll at Surfside Building Collapse Rises to 9
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