Two more people, including the seven-year-old daughter of a firefighter, were found dead in the debris of a partially collapsed condominium building in Florida on Friday, taking the death toll to 22, officials said. This rise in deaths came as Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava news agency AFP on Friday that she signed an order which authorised the demolition of the portion of the building which is still standing.
“We’re still evaluating all possible impacts and determining the best timeline to actually begin the demolition,” Cava said, adding the top priority is search and rescue and the building poses a threat to public health and safety.
The number of people missing in the June 24 tragedy in South Florida fell from 145 to 126, after duplicate names were striked off and some residents, which were earlier reported missing, were found to be safe. Cava added the figures of missing are expected to keep changing as detectives are constantly reviewing the list and verifying reports.
Officials, meanwhile, said detectives have been working round the clock to contact the relatives and acquaintances of the missing residents. However, not a single person has been rescued since the first hours after the condominium building collapsed.
Miami-Dade assistant fire chief Raide Jadallah told AP on Friday that only a woman’s voice had been heard during the entire search. “Most of the victims have been deceased in their bedroom indicating they were asleep,” Jadallah said.
Amid the possible arrival of Hurricane Elsa, which will bring strong winds to Florida, Jadallah said the rescue operations might be suspended. “We will try to go as long as we can, but you can see from different periods of inclement weather we’ve had, we have stopped,” he said. According to the National Weather Service, the storm could approach Florida as early as Monday.
Meanwhile, authorities started evacuating residents of nearby condominium building on Friday in the wake of the June 24 mishap. The city of North Miami Beach said in an official statement the 156-unit Crestview Towers had been deemed structurally and electrically unsafe months ago.
“In an abundance of caution, the City ordered the building closed immediately and the residents evacuated for their protection, while a full structural assessment is conducted and next steps are determined,” city manager Arthur H Sorey III said in the statement.
(With agency inputs)