Search and rescue teams found another body in the rubble of a collapsed 12-story tower near Miami Saturday, bringing the death toll to five as they raced against the clock to retrieve the survivors while responding to gunfire and smoke deep within the remains of concrete and metal.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the new toll at an evening press conference, saying the discovery of the body had reduced the number of people missing to 156.
She said crews struggling throughout the day in the debris also found other unspecified human remains.
The mayor also added that the reason the missing number had decreased by three was that authorities had identified three bodies. Officials said the remains they found were being sent to the medical examiner and they were also collecting DNA samples from family members to help identify them.
Throughout the day, she noted, rescuers continued to scour the massive mountain of debris with rescue dogs and sonar in search of survivors. “Our top priority continues to be search and rescue and saving all the lives we can,” she said.
Earlier rescuers said their efforts to recover the survivors were hampered as they battled fire and smoke from deep within the concrete and metal rubble heap.
Rescuers used infrared technology, thousands of gallons of water and foam to fight the “very deep” fire, the source of which is unclear. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescuers were facing “incredible hardships” because of the flames.A fire hose detonated one of the lower floors on the north side of the tower as white smoke or steam erupted and a bitter, sulphurous smell wafted through the air.“The stench is very thick,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.
Rescue and recovery teams from across the country are arriving in Miami to aid in the effort, with each team working in half-hour shifts in grueling conditions.
“It’s much more devastating in person than in the photos,” said rescuer Captain Rick Vila. “If we save a life, it’s worth it,” he added.
A 2018 engineering report on the building found that the beachfront apartment block had “major structural damage” to a concrete structural slab under its pool deck that needed to be extensively repaired.
The report was part of a series of documents released by the town of Surfside as rescuers continued to dig through the rubble of the building on Saturday in an attempt to find one of the 156 people missing after it collapsed.
Although the engineering report from Morabito Consultants did not warn of an imminent danger of the damage and it was not clear whether any of the damage observed was responsible for the collapse, it did noted the need for major and expensive repairs to fix problems with the building.
He said the waterproofing under the pool deck failed and was improperly laid flat instead of tilted, preventing water from draining.
“Failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the structural concrete slab beneath these areas.
“Failure to replace waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” the report said.
The company recommended that damaged slabs be replaced in what would be a major repair.
The report also found “extensive cracking and spalling” of concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.
He also noted that many of the building’s previous attempts to repair columns and other damage have been marred by poor manufacturing and have failed.
Under the pool deck, “where the slab had been epoxy injected, new cracks radiated from the originally repaired cracks,” the report said.
At the site where the building once stood, dozens of rescuers used large machines, small buckets, drones, microphones and their own hands to pick up the mountain of debris that had made up the 12 floors of the Champlain South Towers.
On Saturday, a crane could be seen removing pieces of rubble from a pile over 30 feet tall at the site.
Meanwhile, firefighters were still grappling with smoke that continued to smolder under the rubble.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told WPLG on Saturday that there had been no change in the number of people still missing.
“We are at the status quo,” she said. “I hope it will be a day when we have a breakthrough. “
Rachel Spiegel was eager to hear about her missing mother, Judy Spiegel, 66, who lived on the sixth floor.
“I’m just praying for a miracle,” Ms. Spiegel said. “We are heartbroken that she is even in the building. “
Hopes rested on how quickly the crews could complete their dark task at Surfside, a few miles north of South Beach in Miami Beach.
“Whenever we hear a sound, we are focusing in that area,” said Miami-Dade Deputy Fire Chief Raide Jadallah.
“It could be just a twist of steel, it could be debris raining down, but not specifically tapping sounds or the sounds of a human voice. “
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said crews were doing everything possible to save as many people as possible.
“We don’t have a resource problem, we have a luck problem,” he said.