The latest on the partial building collapse near Miami

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:03 PM ET, Wed June 30, 2021
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11:50 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Miami-Dade mayor says 16 now confirmed dead from Surfside collapse

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on June 30.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on June 30. CNN

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said that the death toll from the collapse is now 16.

"We've now recovered four additional victims. The number of deceased is at 16," the mayor said.

She said that 12 next of kin notifications have been completed and that there are four families still waiting to hear. 

The mayor said that that the number of accounted for is 139 and the number of unaccounted is 147.

She also clarified how they are organizing the count.

"And to remind you, we were previously including the number of deceased in the accounted for number, but for clarity moving forward we're separating that. So we have deceased, accounted, and unaccounted."

The news conference is ongoing.

11:45 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

NOW: Officials provide an update on Surfside collapse search effort

Authorities are holding a news conference to update the public on the search for survivors.

At least 12 people are dead and 149 people are unaccounted for after a residential building partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, last Thursday.

This morning, the Commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit said search and rescue personnel found more bodies overnight. The official did not reveal how many people were found because the next-of-kin has not been notified. 

Read more about the search efforts here.

11:30 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Florida official emotional as he reflects on victims who moved to US "because they wanted to be Americans”

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos and Kate Conerly

Florida State Fire Marshal and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
Florida State Fire Marshal and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. Source: WPLG

Florida State Fire Marshal and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis became visibly emotional Wednesday while reflecting on the victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse who “moved to this country because they wanted to be Americans.”

“This is not a local event, this is not a regional event, it’s not a state, it’s not a national-it’s an international event. I was talking to one of the firefighters and we’re talking about the building. And he said, ‘Jimmy don’t forget, there’s people that were living there and they moved to this country because they wanted to be Americans,’” Patronis told CNN affiliate WPLG Wednesday.

Patronis said the tragedy of the collapse “carries a little bit of a different, you know, attachment because Miami is such a gateway to the greatest place in the world to live.”

He lauded the first responders on the scene who he said “are not wired to rest. They’re wired to work.”

“They feed off the passion of the profession that they signed up for,” Patronis said.

Read more about the search efforts here.

11:32 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

Pastor of nearby church says 20 to 25 of his parishioners are unaccounted for

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

Rev. Juan Sosa of St. Joseph Catholic Church told CNN about 20 to 25 of his parishioners are unaccounted for after the Champlain Towers South collapsed last Thursday. The parish is only a five minute walk from the building.

Sosa said he shared many milestones with victims of the collapse. In particular, the pastor worked closely with Marcus Guara, a parishioner who has been found dead. Sosa baptized Guara's daughter, Emma Guara, and helped his other daughter, Lucia Guara, with her first communion. The two daughters and their mother are still unaccounted for.

Sosa also said Hilda Noriega, the 12th victim found dead after the collapse, was a close member of his parish.

"I did conduct the funeral of her husband years ago. And now her son just called me this morning about the funeral that will be prepared," the pastor said.

Throughout the past week, Sosa has provided support to the Surfside community. On Sunday, the pastor created a remembrance binder, listing the names of parishioners who are unaccounted for. Sosa told CNN he then invited the community to add the names of other victims, regardless of their religious affiliation.

"So we have a little symbol - the Paschal Candle that is lit all day until the evening that represents the resurrection of Christ for us and that we receive a baptism, as well as the flowers," Sosa said.

10:52 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

"It almost resembles the Trade Center": A first responder's first moments on scene

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

After about 55 units of the Champlain Towers South collapsed Thursday night, a first responder arrived on scene and described what he saw.

"We have a 13 story building with most of the building gone. This is gonna be a high priority," the first responder told dispatch.

"I see many people on their balconies. The building is gone — there's no elevators. This is nothing. I mean, it almost resembles the Trade Center," he said in the released audio.

Currently, at least 12 people are dead and 149 people are unaccounted for. Rescue teams are entering their seventh day searching the scene for victims.

Listen to what the first responder said:

10:41 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

At least 2 people remain hospitalized after Surfside collapse

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and John Couwels

Six days after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building, two people remain hospitalized at Jackson Health System, according to the hospital system’s media relations manager, Lidia Amoretti-Morgado.

Jackson Health System says it doesn’t have consent to release more information about the two patients in their care.

 

10:29 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

These are some of the challenges Surfside rescue teams are facing

From CNN's Theresa Waldrop

Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 29 in Surfside, Florida.
Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 29 in Surfside, Florida. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Rescue teams are entering their seventh day searching the rubble of a collapsed building in Surfside, Florida – still holding out hope they will find the 149 people unaccounted for.

"We're moving debris piece by piece and searching through," Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said Tuesday, describing what he called a "tedious process."

Crews from all over the state have been helping out. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent assistance, and crews from Israel and Mexico are also helping.

These are some of the challenges impacting teams on the ground:

  • Debris is falling - The pieces of concrete the crews are dealing with are the size of basketballs and baseballs, Raide Jadallah, the assistant fire chief of operations for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said Monday. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday that debris is falling on crews at the site as they do their work. "We have structural engineers on site to assure that they will not be injured, but they are proceeding because they are so motivated," Levine Cava added.
  • Debris is also shifting - Overnight into Tuesday, debris fell from portions of the building that remain standing, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. And workers were steering clear of a "45-foot area next to the building" because of concerns about overhanging debris from the standing portion, Cominsky said. The west side had to be cordoned off "because it was becoming excessively dangerous to work there," Burkett said. The pile of rubble shifts as the crews work, officials said. "The situation at hand is we're not lifting floor by floor," Jadallah said. "We're talking about concrete. We're talking about steel. Every time there's an action, there's a reaction." He said on Sunday as crews were looking through the rubble, a rescuer fell 25 feet down the pile of collapsed building.
  • There's a lot of rubble to move - The building was 12 stories high. The crews have so far moved about 3 million pounds of concrete, Kominsky said Tuesday. "That's over 850 cubic feet," he said. While crews were looking for empty spaces in the rubble where survivors might be by digging in from the bottom, heavy machinery has been lifting pieces from the top. But people who were sleeping in their bedrooms when the building fell in "are under four or five meters (13 to 16 feet) of concrete," Col. Golan Vach, the commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit that's assisting in the search, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Tuesday. "So this is what they're doing right now, penetrating the concrete," Vach said. He added that of all the places he has done similar work – Turkey, Haiti, Albania and Mexico, for example – this site is the most difficult because of the way the building pancaked in on itself.
  • A few fires broke out at the site - When a few fires broke out at the site over the weekend, crews had to work to get that and the smoke under control. Levine Cava said Saturday that progress had been made with the fire and smoke that was hampering the search effort.
  • Wind and rain can make the rescue more dangerous - It's the rainy season in Florida, and the wind and rain only made a dangerous situation even more so, officials pointed out. Some work had to stop at times because of lightning. On Sunday, Burkett said rescuers' luck had "seemed to turn" as far as fires and weather were concerned. Now, he said, "we just need a few more miracles each day."

11:18 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

As rescue teams enter their seventh day, here’s what we know

Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors and to recover remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 29 in Surfside, Florida.
Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors and to recover remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 29 in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After a residential building collapsed in Surfside, Florida search and rescue teams are working to find dozens of residents who are unaccounted for. As teams continue to tirelessly search the site, 149 people remain unaccounted for and 12 have been confirmed dead.

  • Col. Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit, said search and rescue personnel found more bodies overnight. However, he would not reveal how many people were found because the next-of-kin has not been notified. “At the last 12 hours we found some more people,” Vach told CNN. “We found people. Unfortunately, they are not alive.” 
  • Vach said first-responders discovered new tunnels in the rubble Tuesday night, which allowed for the discovery of more bodies. "These tunnels that we found right now were almost the first to be big enough to enable people to stay between them," he told CNN. Vach said search and rescue teams were working in the space between the collapsed balconies. Teams are also looking for bedrooms buried under 13-16 feet of concrete.
  • Moreover, debris remains an issue for rescue teams. Overnight into Tuesday, debris fell from portions of the building that remain standing, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. In addition, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said workers were steering clear of a "45-foot area next to the building" because of concerns about overhanging debris from the standing portion.

Read more about the search and rescue efforts here.

CNN's Madeline Holcombe, Gregory Lemos and Alyssa Kraus contributed to this post.

9:15 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021

USPS safeguarding mail and packages of Surfside collapse victims 

From CNN's Joe Sutton and Tina Burnside 

The United States Postal Service says it is keeping all mail and packages of residents in the Surfside, Florida, building collapse in a secure location, according to a news release. 

"The U.S. Postal Service joins the rest of the nation and the world in expressing our sadness and sympathy for the victims and others impacted by the tragedy in Surfside, FL," Debra J. Fetterly, USPS spokesperson of the South Florida District, said in the release. 

Mail and packages for residents of the Champlain Towers have been secured and are being kept safe at the Surfside Post Office at 250 95th Street, according to the release.

The postal service is also encouraging residents and businesses in the Surfside area who have not received their mail in recent days to visit their local post office. 

"The U.S. Postal Service will continue to take steps to ensure we can provide reliable and safe delivery for all customers in the Surfside, FL community," the release stated.