The death toll in thein Surfside, Florida, rose to 64 on Thursday after additional victims were recovered. Forty of the victims have been identified, and 76 people are still unaccounted for, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference.
Teams worked through the night searching for victims and paused around 1:20 a.m. to mark two weeks since the building crumbled in the middle of the night. Levine Cava said that a moment of silence with first responders was held Thursday to “honor the victims and their families.”
The work has now shifted fromand is continuing on Thursday with all speed and urgency, Levine Cava said.
“We are working around the clock to recover victims and bring closures to the families as fast as we possibly can,” she said.
Searches over the last two weeks have been targeted, not random, said Christopher Valerian, medical manager for New Jersey Task Force One, an urban search and rescue team that was deployed to the collapse site.
“Maybe there was a K-9 unit that had located a potential victim or maybe you see flies circling around, or maybe you see remnants of a bedroom where there was, you know, bed clothes or even a mattress or something,” Valerian said Thursday on CBSN.
“Once you identify those locations you’ll go in and start digging, literally by hand, cutting concrete with machines as necessary, and looking for the victims,” he said.
He said since there are multiple layers of the building, large machinery has helped move big debris out of the way before teams, broken into groups of six, would get on their hands and knees and start digging, looking for any survivors.
No one has been found alive, however, since immediately after the collapse.
The Surfside collapse site isn’t typical, said Valerian.
“Usually in a building collapse like this you will find what we call void spaces, you know, spaces that are created by objects that stop the falling debris above your head, and that’s sort of where you find victims,” he said. “In this particular case, and I’m not a structural engineer, however, the way it’s been explained to me is that the way that the building sort of pancaked down and the pressure from the floors above just created so much downward force that those normal void spaces where survivors would be located just don’t exist.”
Valerian said the lack of large household appliances seen at the site is another indicator of how powerful the collapse was.
“I’ve said to myself, ‘Where are all the appliances? Where’s the refrigerators, the stoves, the ovens?'” he said. “We’re just not finding, like, large objects. All we’re finding are small, crushed, pulverized pieces of metal and concrete and steel, so it’s just amazing the force this building fell at, and I think that’s part of the problem with not being able to find survivors.”
Caitlin Yilek and Manuel Bojorquez contributed to this story.