, Fla. (AP) — Rescuers discovered another body
in the rubble of a collapsed 12-story condominium tower near Miami
on Saturday, bringing the death toll
to five as they raced to find any survivors while fighting fire
and smoke deep inside the concrete and metal
At an evening news conference
, Miami-Dade Mayor
Daniella Levine Cava announced the increased toll, saying that the identification of three bodies had reduced the number of unaccounted for to 156, and that crews had discovered other unspecified human remains.
The remains discovered are being sent to the medical examiner, and DNA samples from family
members are being collected to aid in identification.
Separately, a video posted on YouTube
showed an official briefing families of missing loved ones, and when he said they had discovered remains among the rubble, people
Throughout the day, rescue workers searched the mountain of debris with trained dogs
and sonar for survivors. “Our top priority continues to be search and rescue and saving any lives that we can,” the mayor said.
During the day, however, crews had to battle
flames in the debris. At one point Saturday, a fire hose blasted one of the lower floors on the north side of the tower, spewing white smoke or steam and leaving a bitter, sulfur-like odor in the air.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
said, "The stench is very strong."
A crane lifted debris from the more than 30-foot pile in Surfside, and scores of rescuers combed through the rubble with big machines, small buckets, drones, microphones, and their own hands.
The wait for missing loved ones was agonizing for many, and the atmosphere inside a hotel ballroom where around 200 family members were being briefed by authorities was tense, according to two people present who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Families dissatisfied with the slow pace of recovery efforts, according to the two, demanded that they be allowed to go to the scene and attempt a collective shout — an attempt to find survivors as well as a cathartic farewell to those who died.
Rachel Spiegel, whose mother, 66-year-old Judy Spiegel, lived on the sixth floor, was among those waiting for word from loved ones. Speaking alongside her siblings on Saturday, she said, "We're trying to hold it together."
“I know my mom is a fighter. I know she loves us. I know she doesn’t want to give up, so, you know, it’s day three, so it’s tough,” Spiegel explained.
President Joe Biden
stated on Twitter
that he spoke with DeSantis on Friday and offered his assistance if needed.
“My heart goes out to the Surfside community as they mourn the loss of their loved ones and wait anxiously for search and rescue efforts to continue,” Biden tweeted.
Authorities announced that they would begin an audit of buildings nearing their 40-year review, such as the fallen Champlain Towers South
, to ensure their safety. The mayor invited other cities in the county to participate in the building review and said state and federal funding would be available to assist.
According to DeSantis, FEMA
officials have joined local and state authorities at the scene, and a nearby "sister building" of the collapsed tower is also being investigated because it was built at the same time and by the same designer as the collapsed tower.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett announced late Saturday that a city official had led a cursory review of the nearby Champlain Towers North and Champlain Towers East structures.
“They discovered nothing out of the ordinary,” he stated.
He stressed that the priority was now to save anyone who was still alive.
“What we’re doing now is saving lives and bringing people out of the rubble; in the next phase, after we address family support, we’re going to do a very deep dive into why this building fell down,” Burkett said.
Burkett previously stated that he was working on a plan to temporarily relocate residents of the Champlain Towers North, which was built the same year and is about 100 yards from the collapsed building, and that FEMA has agreed to pay for lodging.
The mayor stated that he does not intend to order residents to evacuate, but that if he lived there, he would "be gone."
Staffers at Surfside City Hall had also been gathering information about Champlain Towers East, which was built in a different style and at a different time.
The announcement followed the release of a 2018 engineering report that revealed the building had "major structural damage" to a concrete slab beneath its pool deck that required extensive repairs, as part of a series of documents made public by the city of Surfside.
While no cause for the early Thursday collapse was determined, DeSantis said a “definitive answer” was required in a timely manner. Video showed the center of the building appearing to collapse first, followed by a section closer to the beach.
The 2018 report was part of the engineering firm's preliminary work for the building's required inspections for a recertification of the building's structural integrity at 40 years, which is due this year.
A federal agency specializing in disaster losses and structure failures is sending a half-dozen scientists and engineers to gather direct information at the site in order to determine whether a more thorough investigation
The first team members arrived on Friday, according to Jason Averill of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which also investigated the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and, more recently, the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, among other disasters.
Separately, the Israeli government announced the dispatch of a team of engineering and rescue specialists to assist in the search, with Israeli media
reporting that 20 Israeli citizens were believed to be among those missing.
Another 22 people have gone missing from Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Paraguay, including relatives of Paraguayan President Silvana de Abdo Bentez.