Death toll rises to 22 in Surfside collapse as mayor authorizes building demolition

Death toll rises to 22 in Surfside collapse as mayor authorizes building demolition
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The death toll in last week’s collapse of a Surfside, Fla., condo building rose to 22 Friday as search and rescue efforts continued, with Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D) announcing that she has authorized the demolition of the rest of the structure once it is safe to do so. 

In a press conference late Friday afternoon, Cava said that emergency responders had found two additional bodies amid the debris of the Champlain Towers South building, with 188 accounted for and 126 still missing. 

The mayor noted that local detectives are “continually editing this list as we verify every single report that we have received regarding a potentially missing person, and, as a result, these numbers will continue to change.” 

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While Cava did not release details on the two additional victims found Friday, the previous 20 included four children and 16 adults, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter.

The mayor also announced during Friday’s press conference that she had signed an emergency order authorizing the demolition of the building “in the interest of public health and safety as soon as the engineers sign off on the next steps to begin the demolition process."

“It’s important to note that we’re still evaluating all possible impacts, and determining the best timeline to actually begin the demolition,” she added, noting that the “top priority” for local officials remains “search and rescue.” 

Cava said that the decision to sign off on the demolition was made in consultation with engineers, who she said are working closely together to determine when and how to safely bring down the building. 

"I want to acknowledge that this was not a decision we made lightly, and I know especially how difficult this is for the families who escaped the building and who have lost their homes and their belongings,” she said. 

However, the mayor noted that the building “poses a threat to public health and safety and bringing it down as quickly as possible is critical to protect our community.” 

Officials noted in the press conference that the demolition will not occur until after Hurricane Elsa, which is potentially headed toward Florida, passes through the area, as the storm could likely cause safety issues and further complicate ongoing search efforts. 

Elsa strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane in Barbados on Friday, and Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said during the press briefing that officials will continue to monitor the storm and see “how close it gets” before making the “necessary precautions and modifications to our plan.”

Officials at the press briefing also highlighted President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE’s authorization of 100 percent of all the costs associated with the building collapse and rescue efforts to be covered for a period of 30 days beginning June 24.