Three more bodies were found at the site of a collapsed condominium building in Surfside, Fla., on Monday, after rescue crews resumed their search following the demolition of the remainder of the building, The Associated Press reported. The death toll now stands at 27.
The search effort had been halted for much of the weekend amid growing worries about the building’s stability, particularly with the approach of a tropical storm. The still-standing portion of Champlain Towers South was leveled in a controlled explosion at about 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, as anguished families continued to await news of the more than 100 people missing since the building collapsed 11 days ago.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said that concerns about the remaining part of the building left few options but demolition. Residents of the building who survived fled with whatever they had with them and had not been permitted to enter the teetering structure. Passports, wedding rings, cherished photos were left behind.
“At the end of the day, that building is too unsafe to let people go back in,” Mr. DeSantis said. “I know there’s a lot of people who were able to get out, fortunately, who have things there. We’re very sensitive to that. But I don’t think that there’s any way you could let someone go back up into that building given the shape that it’s in now.”
Mr. DeSantis said that while Surfside was not expected to see the worst of the approaching Tropical Storm Elsa, the town could still experience strong winds and heavy rain.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue team had swept the building three times to search for pets left behind. “The latest information we have is that there are no animals remaining in the building,” Ms. Levine Cava said.
The demolition of the remaining part of the tower might help searchers access part of the rubble they could not safely reach before, Ms. Levine Cava said. Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said one-third of the debris pile has yet to be searched.
Also on Sunday, the authorities identified another victim of the collapse: David Epstein, 58.
As Tropical Storm Elsa approached Florida, officials said they hoped the brunt of the storm would spare Surfside, the site of the building collapse. They cautioned residents closer to the storm’s predicted path, west of the Miami area, to prepare for heavy rain and possible power outages.
Elsa was expected to pass near the Florida Keys early Tuesday and then move near or over portions of the west coast of Florida, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said officials were continuing to monitor the storm’s path.
“Obviously, these tracks can change,” he said.
Tropical storm conditions were expected in parts of the Florida Keys by late Monday, and Elsa could dump up to 6 inches of rain over parts of Florida, which could result in flooding, the center said.
Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, was the first victim identified in the condo collapse. She was the mother of Jonah Handler, a 15-year-old boy who was pulled alive from the rubble in a dramatic rescue as he begged rescuers, “Please don’t leave me.”
Antonio Lozano, 83, and Gladys Lozano, 79, were confirmed dead by Mr. Lozano’s nephew, Phil Ferro, the chief meteorologist on WSVN Channel 7 in Miami. Mr. Ferro wrote on Instagram: “They were such beautiful people. May they rest in peace.”
Luis Andres Bermudez, 26, lived with his mother, Ana Ortiz, 46, and stepfather, Frank Kleiman, 55. Mr. Bermudez’s father confirmed his son’s death on social media, writing in Spanish: “My Luiyo. You gave me everything … I will miss you all of my life. We’ll see each other soon. I will never leave you alone.”
Manuel LaFont, 54, was a businessman who worked with Latin American companies. His former wife, Adriana LaFont, described him as “the best dad.” Mr. LaFont’s son, 10, and daughter, 13, were with Ms. LaFont when the building collapsed.
Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21, was in South Florida visiting Mr. LaFont, a close friend of his father’s. He was studying economics at Vanderbilt University and had been a decathlon athlete at his high school. An image of him is on a mural outside the school’s athletic facility.
Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74, were from Venezuela and had recently moved to Surfside, according to Chabadinfo.com, which said they were active in the Orthodox Jewish community in greater Chicago, where one of their daughters lives.
Marcus Joseph Guara, 52, lived with his wife, Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and their two daughters, Lucia Guara, 10, and Emma Guara, 4. Mr. Guara was remembered as a kind and generous man, a godfather to twins and a fan of hard rock music.
Hilda Noriega, 92, was a longtime resident of Champlain Towers South who enjoyed traveling and whose family described her “unconditional love.” Hours before the collapse, she attended a celebration with relatives.
Michael David Altman, 50, came from Costa Rica to the United States as a child, and was an avid racquetball player as a youth. “He was a warm man. He conquered a lot of obstacles in his life and always came out on top,” his son, Nicholas, told The Miami Herald.
Also killed in the collapse were Claudio Bonnefoy, 85, and Maria Obias-Bonnefoy, 69; Graciela Cattarossi, 48; Magaly Elena Delgado, 80; Bonnie Epstein, 56, and David Epstein, 58; Gonzalo Torre, 81; and the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, whom the authorities declined to name.
Florida’s high-rise building regulations have long been among the strictest in the nation. But after parts of Champlain Towers South tumbled down on June 24, killing at least 24 people and leaving 121 unaccounted for, evidence has mounted that those rules have been enforced unevenly by local governments, and sometimes not at all.
Miami-Dade County officials said last week that they were prioritizing reviews of 24 multistory buildings that either had failed major structural or electrical inspections required after 40 years or had not submitted the reports in the first place. But the county’s own records show that 17 of those cases had been open for a year or more. Two cases were against properties owned by the county itself. The oldest case had sat unresolved since 2008.
The city of North Miami Beach had tried and failed for years to bring a 10-story condo building within its borders, Crestview Towers, into compliance with the 40-year recertification requirements. When the building’s condo association finally submitted the required paperwork last week, about nine years late, it documented critical safety concerns, a city spokesman said. Officials evacuated the building on Friday.
Meanwhile, the same local governments were pursuing a haphazard approach to identifying other potentially unsafe buildings across the region, with the age and height criteria that would prompt added scrutiny varying from one place to the next. At least one local government, the village of Key Biscayne, was opting to conduct no extra inspections at all, an official there said.
Even if building auditors focus only on towers of 10 stories or more that were built in the 1970s and 1980s, the task would still be daunting. An analysis of property records by The New York Times shows that at least 270 such buildings dot the skylines of Miami-Dade County’s cities, villages and towns, with dozens more in the county’s unincorporated reaches.