, Fla. (AP) — Rescue workers who have spent 14 days dismantling the rubble of a collapsed condo building near Miami announced Wednesday that they were shifting from rescue to recovery mode, indicating that the search for survivors was nearly complete.
came as a result of increasingly depressing reports from emergency personnel, who said they had been preparing families for the worst-case scenario.
At a private briefing Wednesday afternoon, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah
informed families that the rescue dogs
and sound devices would be removed, but that the search for their relatives' bodies would continue.
“At this point, our only responsibility is to bring closure,” he said, as relatives sobbed in the background.
For about two weeks after Champlain Towers South
collapsed, officials emphasized their focus on finding survivors — a hope that was rekindled after workers demolished the rest of the building, allowing rescuers access to new areas of debris in the hope of finding “voids,” or open pockets in the rubble where someone could have survived.
Some of those voids did exist, mostly in the basement and the parking
garage, but no survivors were discovered; instead, they recovered more than a dozen additional victims. Because the building collapsed in the early hours of June 24, many people
were discovered dead in their beds. The death toll
as of Wednesday was 46, with 94 people still unaccounted for.
Since the first few hours after the 12-story building collapsed, no one has been rescued alive.
Because of the instability of the remaining portion of the condominium building and the preparation for demolition
, rescuers were forced to suspend the mission twice during the search.
After hoping for miraculous rescues, families have gradually begun to prepare for the news that their loved ones did not survive.
“For some, it’s almost a sense of relief when they already know (that someone has died) and they can just start to put an end to that chapter and start to move on,” said Maggie Castro, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue firefighter
and paramedic who has updated families daily at private briefings.
A grand jury investigation
into the collapse has been launched, and at least six lawsuits have been filed by Champlain Towers families.