The death toll in a Miami-area condo building collapse rose to 79 on Friday, a figure the mayor called "heartbreaking" as recovery workers scrambled for 16 days to find victims in the rubble. Another 61 people are still missing.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said work to recover the victims was "moving forward with great urgency" to bring closure to the families of victims who have spent two agonizing weeks waiting for news.
"This is an astonishing and heartbreaking number that affects us all deeply," Levine Cava said of the latest death toll.
“All who have passed away… are leaving their loved ones behind. They are leaving behind devastated families. The magnitude of this tragedy grows day by day, ”he said.
Rescue workers and emergency support teams from Florida and several other states have worked 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day at the site of the devastated beachfront condo in Surfside, physically and emotionally taxing work. in oppressive heat and dangerous conditions.
“We know there will be long-term impacts for the teams on the front line,” said Levine Cava. "They have given a lot of themselves in these first two weeks."
To that end, Levine Cava said officials have added peer support staff at fire stations.
No one has been found alive since the first hours after a large 12-story section of Champlain Towers South collapsed on June 24.
The hope of finding survivors was briefly rekindled after workers demolished the rest of the building Sunday night, allowing access to new areas of rubble. There were some gaps where survivors could have been trapped, mostly in the basement and parking lot, but no one was found alive. Instead, the teams recovered more than a dozen additional victims.
On Wednesday, workers changed their search and rescue mission to recovery after concluding that there was "no chance of life" in the rubble.
Levine Cava said the death of so many is "a sore hole at the center of this united family here at Surfside."
State and local officials have pledged to provide financial assistance to the families of the victims, as well as the residents of the building who survived but lost all of their possessions. Meanwhile, authorities are launching a grand jury investigation into the collapse. And the families have filed at least six lawsuits.
The president of Paraguay will go to Miami to look for the bodies of his relatives
The president of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, travels to Miami this Friday with the first lady, Silvana López-Moreira, after the discovery of the bodies of three of his relatives disappeared in the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building was confirmed.
The president will remain in the US until July 13 "for particular reasons related to the events that occurred in the city of Miami," as reported in his note sent to the Supreme Court of Justice.
The Paraguayan Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday night the recovery of "the bodies of three nationals" among the rubble of the collapsed building.
Hours earlier, the chancellor, Euclides Acevedo, had informed the local media that it was Sophía López Moreira, the first lady's sister, her husband, Luis Pettengill, and one of their children.
In the Champlain Towers South building, where the deceased had an apartment, there were also two other daughters of the couple that night and Lady Luna Villalba, a 23-year-old girl who traveled as the family's nanny, whose bodies have not yet been found.
"The National Chancellery will continue to provide support to the Luna Villalba, López Moreira and Pettengill families in these difficult circumstances, in the process of recovering their loved ones," added Thursday's statement.
On June 24, after hearing the news of the collapse, Abdo Benítez suspended his schedule and stayed at the presidential residence of Mburuvicha Roga for the rest of the week.
For her part, the first lady traveled with other relatives to Miami to follow the rescue tasks from the place, although in the middle of this week she had returned to Paraguay.
Last weekend, Lady Luna Villalba's mother and cousin also flew to Miami, as reported by the Foreign Ministry on that date.