Death toll in Florida condo building collapse rises to 95

Fourteen people remain unaccounted for after the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South high-rise near Miami.

A makeshift memorial recognises the victims of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South building, as removal and recovery work continues in Surfside, Florida [Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

Searchers at a partially collapsed condominium near Miami found another victim on Tuesday, raising the number of confirmed deaths to 95 as heavy rain and the challenge of identifying victims’ remains slowed the recovery effort.

“It’s a scientific, methodical process to identify human remains,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news briefing.

“As we’ve said, this work is becoming more difficult with the passage of time, and although our teams are working as hard as they can, it takes time,” she said.

Fourteen people are still unaccounted for 20 days after the high-rise Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida collapsed as residents slept in the early hours of June 24.

The number of missing includes 10 confirmed victims who have yet to be identified, officials said.

Workers have removed 892 truckloads of concrete and debris so far from the site since the search operation began, the Miami-Dade mayor also said on Tuesday.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levin Cava speaks during a briefing near the site of the Champlain Towers South building, as removal and recovery work continued on July 13 [Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

On Monday, nine more victims were identified the Miami Herald newspaper reported.

Model and mom Cassie Stratton, 40, had called her husband at 1:30am (05:30 GMT) on June 24 to tell him their condo was shaking and there was a sinkhole where the pool had been, the newspaper said. As she was talking, the phone line went dead.

“I’ll never, never forget that,” Mike Stratton told the Miami Herald. Her body was recovered on July 10.

So far, the medical examiner has identified the remains of 85 of the 95 known victims, and their families have been notified, Levine Cava added.

The list of those unaccounted for was compiled from all reports received from family members, even if they were uncertain that their missing loved ones were in the building at the time of the collapse, officials said.

The only people known to have survived were pulled from the wreckage within hours after part of the 12-storey, oceanfront condominium complex collapsed without warning.

Engineers and others investigating the cause of the collapse have been identifying key pieces of the 40-year-old building to determine what happened, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

“We’re looking at how the building lines up with what the plans say,” he said.

Officials have not yet determined the cause but evidence of structural decay has emerged.

Inquiries are under way by an engineer hired by the town of Surfside, a team from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, and experts hired by lawyers representing families and others.

Slowing the process were heavy rains on Monday that flooded the site and its underground garage, and forced searchers to pause while the water was pumped out, officials said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies