MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Families of the victims of the Surfside building collapse, along with first responders, neighbors and local officials, visited the memorial near the scene Wednesday night to comfort each other and pray after the search-and-rescue mission officially transitioned to a search-and-recovery mission.
As of Wednesday night, the death toll had risen to 54 with 86 people still potentially unaccounted for.
Officials are expected to provide another update Thursday morning.
First responders stood side-by-side Wednesday in silence to mark the painful reality.
“At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
The mayor made the anticipated, yet still crushing announcement during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
“It is with deep, profound sadness that this afternoon I’m able to share that we made the extremely difficult decision to transition from operation search-and-rescue to recovery,” she said. “To share this news with the families this evening who are still missing their loved ones was devastating.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the decision was made as those closest to the rescue efforts say the possibility of now finding someone still alive is near zero.
“Once we pull the victim out, what we’re recognizing is, you know, human remains,” one rescue official said.
Search-and-rescue teams say because the condominium building collapsed in what they call a “pancake effect,” it left them with slim chances of finding survivors from the start.
For the past two weeks, K9s trained to find survivors in the rubble never picked up a scent.
“I’d like to extend my sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the families,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said.
Copyright 2021 by WPLG Local10.com – All rights reserved.