Death toll in Florida condo collapse rises to 54

A total of 18 more victims have been recovered in the condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, bringing the death toll to 54. Another 86 people are still unaccounted for, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced at a press conference Wednesday evening.

Cava also announced Wednesday that crews will switch at midnight from a “search and rescue” operation to a “recovery” effort. A moment of silence will be held at that time to mark the transition.

“We’ve truly exhausted every option available to us in the search and rescue mission,” Cava said, adding that the families of the victims were told of the “extremely difficult decision” earlier in the day. “To share this news with the families, this evening, who are still missing their loved ones was devastating.”  

Search crews again worked overnight and made progress on areas that were inaccessible prior to the recent demolition of the part of the condo building that was still standing, she said.

Of the victims who have been recovered, 33 have been identified. “Our community and the world are grieving with all of the families who are living through this unthinkable tragedy,” Levine Cava said earlier Wednesday. 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said teams at the site were working non-stop. Crews had been using all of the heavy equipment available to maximize efforts to pull out all trapped residents. Cava said more than 7 million pounds of concrete and debris has been removed for the site.

Teams in the Florida town just north of Miami Beach had been working under conditions made even harder by wind and rain from Elsa. On Wednesday morning, day 14 of the search, the weather cleared, according to officials.

“The possibility of someone still alive is near zero. They are probably right, but in the end God is still in charge,” Burkett said. “A miracle is still possible.”