, Fla. (AP) — A fire
official said Wednesday that four more bodies were discovered in the rubble of a collapsed Florida
condo tower, bringing the death toll
in the disaster to 16.
At a morning briefing, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah informed family
members that the bodies were discovered Tuesday night and that relatives had not yet been identified.
Rescuers were able to build a ramp for a crane to reach areas at the top of the pile that had previously been inaccessible, Jadallah said, in addition to the four bodies.
State Fire Marshal Jimmy Petronis called the ramp a "Herculean effort" that would allow for the use of more heavy equipment.
“You can now leverage massive equipment to remove mass pieces of concrete, which could lead to those incredible good news events,” Petronis told Miami television
More than 140 people
The bodies were discovered the morning after Florida authorities requested an additional rescue team to comb the tower's rubble, highlighting the difficult nature
of the ongoing search for survivors in a tropical weather-prone area.
The possibility of more severe weather in the coming days stretching Florida's search and rescue
resources prompted state officials to request the additional team, according to Kevin Guthrie of the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Tuesday.
Guthrie said the new team, which would most likely come from Virginia
, would be on hand if severe weather hit the area in the coming days, allowing crews that have been working at the site for days to rotate out. Authorities said it is still a search-and-rescue operation, but no one has been found alive since the collapse on Thursday.
“There are two areas of (potential storm) development out in the Atlantic
, heading to the Caribbean
. We have eight urban rescue teams in Florida. We discussed doing a relief,” Guthrie said at a news conference
Tuesday night. “We have all the resources we need, but we’re going to bring in another team. We want to rotate those out so we can get more resources out.”
According to the National Hurricane Center
, two disorganized storm systems in the Atlantic have a chance of developing
into tropical systems in the coming days, but it is unclear whether they would pose
a threat to the United States
at this time.
According to Charles Cyrille of the Miami-Dade County
Office of Emergency, 900 people from 50 federal, state, and local agencies were working together to conduct the search.
Elected officials have promised to conduct multiple investigations into the 12-story Champlain Towers South
in Surfside that collapsed unexpectedly last week.
Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County stated that she and her staff will meet with engineering, construction, and geology experts, among others, to review building safety issues and develop recommendations “to ensure a tragedy like this never, ever happens again.”
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has announced that she will seek a grand jury
investigation into the factors and decisions that led to the collapse.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
invoked a well-known military
pledge to leave no one behind on the battlefield and promised to do the same for those still missing in the rubble.
“The way I see it, as an old Navy guy, when someone is missing in action, in the military, you’re missing until you’re found; we don’t stop the search,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden
and First Lady Jill Biden
were scheduled to visit Surfside.
Work on the site has been deliberate and perilous, with the pancake collapse of the building leaving layer upon layer of intertwined debris, frustrating efforts to reach anyone who may have survived in a pocket of space
Several members of an Israeli rescue team worked partly on their hands and knees Tuesday over a small section of the rubble, digging with shovels, pickaxes, and saws. They removed debris into buckets, which were then dumped into a metal
construction bin, which was periodically lifted away by a crane, and an empty bin was delivered by the crane.
Late in the afternoon, rescue officials sounded a horn for the second time that day, signaling an impending storm with lightning, and workers were temporarily evacuated.
The work has been extremely difficult, according to Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky, but “we're out here 110%.”
“These are the most difficult times,” Cominsky said, adding, “We are here to do a job, we are here with a passion, and we hope to have some success.”
Kelli Kennedy in Miami, Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida, and Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale
, Florida, contributed to this report, as did Associated Press
writers Kelli Kennedy and Freida Frisaro.