Sixty-four people have been confirmed dead in the partial collapse of the Miami Beach-area condo building, as crews who have been toiling on the pile nonstop paused briefly early Thursday to mark two weeks since half the building came down.
The search and rescue efforts at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, were halted at midnight Wednesday, signaling the formal end of the search for survivors.
But six more bodies were recovered overnight, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. Of the 64 victims, 40 have been identified and more than 30 of those families have been notified.
As many as 200 people from the building have been accounted for, while 76 are still potentially unaccounted for, she said.
As bodies are recovered, remains of Jewish victims are being handled “in a manner consistent with the Jewish faith,” Levine Cava explained Thursday.
Levine Cava also said that personal items recovered from the pile — such as identifying documents, jewelry, safes, firearms, religious items, cellphones, computers, photo albums and wallets — are being preserved and catalogued in hopes they can be returned to their owners or their families.
More than 8 million pounds of concrete and debris have been removed from the site, Levine Cava said during a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting on Thursday.
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said the decision to call off the rescue effort “was not an easy one, as our hearts still hoped to find survivors, but our experience and expertise indicated that was no longer possible.”
He said the move to recovery has allowed crews to make more use of heavy equipment on the pile.
But he said search crews had previously used “every resource and expertise available to find life under the rubble.”
“Crews worked under arduous conditions through rain, smoke, fire and even imminent danger of a secondary collapse” of the other side of the building he said.
“I don’t know how it was standing,” Cominsky said during the commission meeting Thursday. “It scared me every day.”
Workers were able to search a broader area after that unstable remaining part of the building was demolished Sunday night.
But still, no one had been found alive since shortly after part of the building flattened in just 11 seconds in the early hours of June 24.
Cominsky said Wednesday that none of the victims who have been recovered survived the collapse, as far as their remains indicated.
Debris that is not a personal item is being sorted and then stored in a warehouse as potential evidence in the investigation into why the building collapsed, officials said.
Documents released by officials revealed previous concerns about the structural integrity of Champlain Towers South. The findings from an engineering consultant, Frank Morabito, showed that there was “abundant cracking” and crumbling in the underground parking garage of the building, according to a 2018 report.
Morabito recommended that concrete slabs, which were “showing distress” by the entrance and the pool deck, “be removed and replaced in their entirety.” He said the concrete deterioration should “be repaired in a timely fashion.”
The National Institute of Standards and Technology and local agencies are investigating what caused half the building to flatten and whether those unaddressed concerns played a role.
Experts are also exploring whether a Florida law regulating condo repairs that was repealed a decade ago could have made a difference.
The 2008 law requiring condo associations to hire engineers or architects to submit reports every five years about how much boards should charge residents to keep up with repairs was repealed two years later.
Champlain Towers South had not done a professional reserve study since at least 2016, according to the building’s financial documents obtained by NBC News and NBC Miami.
The decision was legal, but it meant that planning was left to the board, a shifting group of volunteers with little training in building maintenance.
A letter sent in April by Champlain Towers South Board President Jean Wodnicki to residents detailed a desperate search for cash — about $16 million — to address concrete deterioration and structural damage that, as Morabito predicted, was multiplying “exponentially.”
Jon Schuppe and Phil Prazan, NBC Miami contributed.