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Rescue crews have recovered eight more bodies from the rubble of the building in Surfside, Miami-Dade, authorities announced Wednesday as they made the “difficult decision” to move from search and rescue to “body recovery.”
With the eight bodies found lifeless, the provisional death count rises to 54 victims of the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South building, which occurred last June 24.
At a press conference, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava also said that the number of missing persons now stands at 86, while the number of people located remains at 200.
Likewise, of the 54 bodies recovered, 33 have been identified, she said at the afternoon press conference in which she announced that “the sad decision had been made to make the transition from search and rescue to recovery (of bodies).”
“We are tired, worn out right now. We can’t do more to bring back the people who are gone, but we can identify the victims and offer closure to the families,” said Levine Cava visibly shaken by the tragedy.
The last victims identified were Graciela Cattarossi, 86, Gino Cattarossi, 89, and Simon Segal, 80. The bodies of all three were recovered Tuesday, according to Miami-Dade Police.
Up to 200 rescuers are at the site of the 1981 Champlain Towers South, which was completely demolished last Sunday due to the instability of the part that remained standing after the collapse.
The demolition has given a new rhythm to the search operation, as rescuers now have access to the entire site where the 12-story, 40-year-old building was located.
The mayor said of the rescuers that she could not be “more proud of this team of men and women who have left their homes” to take on this work.
“The possibility of finding people alive under the rubble is now impossible,” Erika Benitez, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County firefighters, said at the press conference, adding that after 14 days of search and rescue, they have reached “the point of making the difficult decision to move on” to the body recovery phase.
The press conference was followed by a “moment of silence” in front of the rubble with religious leaders and rescuers present, officials said.