Death toll in Florida collapse rises to 86 as recovery workers battle storms

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Recovery workers battled poor weather Saturday as they continued to search for the victims of the Florida building collapse.

The death toll rose to 86, Miami Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference, announcing that six more bodies were found in the rubble overnight.

So far, 62 victims have been identified, and 43 people are still missing.

Poor weather was expected to continue Saturday as storms hovered off South Florida’s coast. The recovery effort was paused early Saturday, but resumed after gusty winds died down.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the progress on the pile was “intense,” and the site may be cleared sooner than expected, though he didn’t have a projection for when the work would be finished. “Much of the original pile is now at ground level or below,” Burkett said.

Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said it was originally expected to take 21 days to clear the piles of rubble left from the combination of the early morning June 24 collapse of half of the Champlain Towers South condominium and the intentional implosion of the remaining portion of the building on Sunday.

The work has gone faster than expected this week, Cominsky said, though he also did not suggest a date when clearing would be complete.

Recovery workers have been able to search areas they couldn’t get near before the half of the building that didn’t collapse was knocked down, he added.

Meanwhile, county and city officials continued a race to inspect old buildings throughout South Florida.

On Friday, a two-story building in Miami Beach built in 1939 was the latest found with structural deterioration. The owners have until Monday to submit an engineer’s report to the city or evacuate, the Miami Herald reported. It’s the latest of at least a dozen buildings flagged for concerns “severe enough to be issued Unsafe Structure notices requiring more immediate compliance,” according to a memo from City Manager Alina T. Hudak.

On Friday, the downtown Miami civil courthouse was evacuated after a building inspection, the Herald reported. The reason for the 1928 building’s closure was not stated.

The notice ordering several floors closed from Chief Judge Nushin Sayfie called the move “surprising and unsettling.”

Levine Cava said Saturday morning that the county is being “very aggressive” about safety in all of these buildings. She said the courthouse had known of problems, including columns that needed some support work.

“Given the circumstances, we’ve already authorized that repair work to begin,” she said, noting that staff had just returned to the building about a week ago, as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

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