Number of dead rises to nine

Miami (AP) – After the partial collapse of a twelve-story residential building in the US state of Florida, more fatalities were found in the rubble.

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The number of deaths had risen to nine, said the mayor of the Miami-Dade district, Daniella Levine Cava, on Sunday at the accident site in Surfside near Miami. Four of the dead have so far been identified. It was only on Saturday evening (local time) that Levine Cava announced the discovery of a fifth death victim. Experts fear that the number is likely to increase significantly. More than 150 people were recently missing.

The building near the beach with around 130 residential units had partially collapsed on Thursday night. The misfortune surprised people in their sleep. Since then, a desperate search for possible survivors has been going on. It’s a race against time. Rescue teams are on duty around the clock – with sniffer dogs, special cameras, listening instruments and heavy equipment.

According to Levine Cava on Saturday evening (local time), 156 people were last missing. The authorities had previously emphasized that the missing people did not necessarily all have to be in the building. It is a list of people who could potentially have been in the house at the time of the accident. Many families fear for their loved ones.

The police had released the names of four identified fatalities over the weekend who had already been found on Thursday and Friday: a 54-year-old woman, a 54-year-old man and an elderly couple aged 79 and 83.

Levine Cava said over the weekend that search forces had also found other unidentified “human remains.” It was not more specific. Identification is not easy, she stressed. DNA tests would be used here. DNA samples were collected from relatives for this purpose. She emphasized that the emergency services continued to try to find survivors. Don’t give up.

The chief of the fire department in the Miami-Dade district, Alan Cominsky, said the search forces worked tirelessly, 24 hours a day in rotating teams and with all their might to find survivors. The situation is “extremely difficult” and demanding.

In the meantime, a fire in the rubble had significantly hampered the search. According to Levine Cava, the rescue workers initially had difficulties locating the origin of the fire under the rubble, isolating it and extinguishing it. This made the search for possible buried subjects very difficult.

However, Levine Cava said on Sunday that the day before they managed to get the fire under control. The search work has made better progress recently. The emergency services had dug a kind of trench in the rubble in order to be able to comb through the mountains of rubble better.

Several people were injured in the accident at Surfside. More than 35 people have been saved so far.

The cause of the partial collapse remains a mystery. The residential complex known as Champlain Towers South dates from the 1980s. At the weekend, a 2018 inspection report by an outside company became public, in which experts listed several defects, including major structural defects in the building’s concrete. Whether these could be in any way related to the collapse remained open.

Levine Cava stressed that she was not previously aware of the report. The authorities followed up on all leads and the cause of the accident to the bottom, so that something like this never happens again, she promised. In the meantime, it will also check whether other similarly old buildings are safe.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said a nearby building, constructed by the same contractor around the same time, is being specially inspected. Alternative accommodation will be offered for residents who do not feel safe in the building by the time the inspection is complete.

In order to release additional funds and material after the accident, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had declared a state of emergency. This was confirmed by President Joe Biden on Friday so that federal funds could also be made available. The disaster control agency FEMA is also involved. International helpers are also involved. Israel sent a delegation to support the search.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210627-99-162813 / 5

Police tweet on fatalities

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