Seventeen days into responding to a condominium collapse, officials in Surfside, Fla., say the total number of confirmed dead has risen to 86. Police and medical examiners are working around the clock to notify victims as work at the collapse site intensifies, officials say.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 62 of the victims have so far been identified, with next of kin of 61 of them having been notified of the deaths.
Using information from the post office, driver's licenses and the building roster, Levine Cava said work continues to audit a list of those who have been accounted for in the collapse.
She said 43 people are "potentially unaccounted for" as search efforts continue following the June 24 collapse.
"It's also important to note that we can only truly account for a missing person who is deceased once the identification is made," Levine Cava said. "As all of these efforts continue, the numbers will continue to change."
Levine Cava said response efforts were paused around 7 a.m. Saturday due to lightning in the area.
During a morning news conference, which was scaled back from two updates each day to one, Levine Cava said bad weather is expected throughout the day Saturday, but that a search for victims will continue as long as it is safe for responders.
Levine Cava said work also continues on monitoring the environmental impacts of the collapse, including testing for asbestos. She said those tests began early on during the response, but no evidence of the toxic material has been found at the site.
Surfside's mayor sees "intense" progress at the collapse site
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett called the progress at the collapse site "intense" and noted that much of the debris from the collapse is now at ground level or below. He said a "huge amount" of dust was kicked up in the area despite heavy rainfall Saturday morning.
"Given the current pace, it appears very likely that the site will be cleared a lot sooner than many expected, at least as it pertains to the area where the remaining building was demolished." he said.
Burkett said a new fund has been established to help downtown businesses that have been shut down as a result of the tragedy. He said the hardships endured over the past few weeks have compounded the struggles they have faced during the coronavirus pandemic.
A grand jury in Miami-Dade County has agreed to investigate the broader issue of building safety after the deadly collapse, the State Attorney's Office said Wednesday.