Children found under collapsed Florida building as death toll rises

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Six more bodies have been found in the past 24 hours in the shattered ruins of a collapsed Miami condominium tower, the Miami-Dade County mayor said Wednesday, bringing the confirmed death toll to 18 nearly a week after the building collapsed.

No one has made it alive from the mountains of pulverized concrete, shattered wood and twisted metal since the early hours of the disaster in the coastal town of Surfside, adjacent to Miami Beach.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference that 147 people were still missing and feared they were trapped in the ruins of the Champlain Towers South apartment. She said two of the 18 confirmed fatalities were children aged 10 and 4.

“The loss of children is too great to bear,” Levine Cava said. “Our community, our nation and the world are all grieving with these families who have lost loved ones.”

Officials have said they still hope to find survivors. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said in an interview that he had promised families that rescue teams would “leave no one behind” as teams dig deeper into the rubble.

“We haven’t reached the bottom. We don’t know what’s down there,” he said. “We’re not going to guess. We’re not going to make a life-or-death decision to arbitrarily stop looking for people who might still be alive in that rubble.”

He said the mountain of wreckage is visibly shrinking every day, indicating progress.

Two teams of dogs helped search the pile – one trained to track down survivors, the other to track down cadavers.

Researchers have not concluded what caused nearly half of the 40-year-old high-rises to collapse as residents slept into the wee hours of last Thursday.

But in 2018, the engineering firm Morabito Consultants prepared a report ahead of a building safety recertification process that found structural deficiencies in the 12-storey, 136-unit complex that is now the subject of investigations.

As late as April, the condo association president warned residents in a letter that the severe concrete damage noted by the engineer around the building’s base had since gotten “significantly worse.”

On Wednesday, the relatives of a missing resident, Harold Rosenberg, filed a lawsuit in Florida’s 11th Circuit Court against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association Inc; Morabito Consultants Inc; and SD Architects PA, a company that was retained by the association to repair the building, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants ignored “clear and shocking warning signs and indications that a catastrophe was imminent” and asked to pay unspecified damages to Rosenberg’s estate, presumed dead, for negligence.

“Given the location of his home, Harold Rosenberg is likely to be at the very bottom of the pile of rubble that search and rescue personnel have just begun,” the lawsuit said. “Hope is waning by the day.”

The architectural firm was not immediately available for comment.

Brett Marcy, a spokesperson for Morabito, said in a statement that the company’s 2018 report contained “detailed findings and recommendations regarding extensive and necessary structural repairs for the apartment building.”

Both Marcy and Maria Stagliano, a spokesperson for the condo association, said in separate statements they could not comment on claims in pending lawsuits, but were working with investigators to understand why the building collapsed.

(REUTERS)