Condo collapse death toll rises to 78: “Staggering and heartbreaking”

Fourteen more victims have been recovered in the Surfside, Florida condo building collapse, bringing the confirmed death toll to 78, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference Friday.

“This is a staggering and heartbreaking number that affects all of us very, very deeply,” she said. 

Forty-seven of the 78 victims have been identified, and another 62 people are potentially unaccounted for. 

Work at the site in Florida, just north of Miami Beach, is focused on recovering victims and trying to bring closures to the families of those who are missing. Crews are now in their 16th day of searches, and no one has been found alive in the rubble since immediately after the building crumbled. 

CBS Miami reports the road to the site of the collapse is a near-constant caravan of search teams, police cars and dump trucks, filled with concrete debris. Sixty trucks are working at the site each day, and over 13 million pounds of concrete and debris had been removed from the site as of Friday, according to Levine Cava. 

“The magnitude of this tragedy is growing each and every day,” she said.

Dr. Christopher Valerian, medical manager for an urban search and rescue team that was deployed to Surfside, said the collapse site isn’t typical.

“Usually in a building collapse like this you will find what we call void spaces, you know, spaces that are created by objects that stop the falling debris above your head, and that’s sort of where you find victims,” he said Thursday on CBSN. “In this particular case, and I’m not a structural engineer, however, the way it’s been explained to me is that the way that the building sort of pancaked down and the pressure from the floors above just created so much downward force that those normal void spaces where survivors would be located just don’t exist.”

Valerian, of New Jersey Task Force 1, said a lack of intact household appliances at the site is another indicator of how powerful the collapse was.  

“I’ve said to myself, ‘Where are all the appliances? Where’s the refrigerators, the stoves, the ovens?'” he said. “We’re just not finding, like, large objects. All we’re finding are small, crushed, pulverized pieces of metal and concrete and steel, so it’s just amazing the force this building fell at, and I think that’s part of the problem with not being able to find survivors.”

NJ Task Force 1 assists in Surfside recovery 09:50