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Death toll rises to 12 as rescuers battle obstacles during their search in Surfside

Surfside mayor: Debris falling from standing tower as rescuers search for victims

As day six of the rescue effort in Surfside continued, another body was pulled from the remains of Champlain Towers South.
As day six of the rescue effort in Surfside continued, another body was pulled from the remains of Champlain Towers South.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Dump trucks were seen removing debris away from the scene of the Surfside building collapse, followed along with a police escort, Wednesday, a day after another body was pulled from the remains of Champlain Towers South.

The update was provided by Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava Tuesday afternoon. That victim has yet to be identified.

Officials have also expressed concern about debris that has been falling from the building that is still standing.

“We’re removing items that we can that might fall off the building,” Levine Cava said at a Tuesday afternoon briefing. “We are taking necessary measures to avoid those sort of falling items.”

Officials confirmed that crews haven’t been able to access a 45 feet area around the remaining building because of the shifting debris and other hazards.

Meanwhile, the county is currently sending structural engineers to all buildings undergoing their 40-year recertification process. Levine Cava confirmed that four balconies at one building in northeast Miami-Dade have been ordered closed due to safety issues.

Additionally, officials said a grand jury was being impaneled in Miami-Dade County to look into the cause of the collapse.

Of the 12 victims who have been pulled from the rubble of Champlain Towers South, 11 have been identified and their families have been notified.

Officials say 149 people remain unaccounted for.

On Tuesday morning, Levine Cava confirmed that 210 people were currently working on the mound and another large crane was being brought in to help secure the standing tower.

She said the rescue crews are making headway even through numerous obstacles, and are rotating out on 12-hour shifts. She said the workers are taking breaks and are being medically monitored to ensure their health and safety.

“We need better weather. We had thunder and lightning this morning,” Burkett told Local 10 News on Tuesday. “The better the weather gets, the faster we can go and that’s what we want.”

Crews have been marking the location where each victim is located, but officials say they cannot share where each person might have been initially at the moment of the collapse.

Current operations Tuesday are on the east side with heavy machinery. The north side and middle are being searched using light machinery and hand tools.

Officials say crews were able to remove the heaviest chunks of debris, about two feet off the top (mostly roof and balconies), overnight and now it will be easier to move through what’s left.

They’ve marked all the sections where they believe each apartment and bedroom is, which they believe will make it easier to recover the victims.

Layer by layer, the search through the mound of debris has been intense and daunting, but the effort is not in vain.

“Our teams have made significant progress on the site,” Levine Cava said.

The mayor spoke to family members of the missing Monday night, confirming that an 11th body was found at the collapsed condo site.

Relatives of Marcus Guara, 52, Frank Kleiman, 55, and Michael Altman, 50, were notified late Monday that the three men had been identified among the deceased.

<ALSO SEE: Who are they? Stories of the victims of Surfside collapse>

“We are frank, we are transparent. This is what we promised and this is how we have been,” Levine Cava said.

There are now 400 first responders in Surfside -- a mix of local, state, federal and international search and rescue teams. They are all trading off 12-hour shifts once again battling bouts of rain Tuesday.

“There’s definitely a concern with the rain, debris and it sliding, so it’s an extremely dangerous situation,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said.

Rescuers are still focused on voids in the rubble -- pockets of space buried deep where survivors could still be. The areas are detected on infrared cameras.

A search team from Mexico is returning to the scene Tuesday with their small K-9 that is specially trained to sniff out survivors.

During a news conference Tuesday morning, Levine Cava expressed her gratitude that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden would be visiting Surfside on Thursday.

She also said she fully supports and will cooperate with the grand jury investigation into the Surfside collapse that was announced by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

Below is a list of those who have been confirmed to be deceased following Thursday’s collapse:

· Frank Kleiman: 55 years old; recovered 6/28/2021

· Michael David Altman; 50 years old; recovered 6/28/2021

· Christina Beatriz Elvira Oliwkowicz: 74 years old; recovered 6/27/2021

· Marcus Joseph Guara: 52 years old; recovered 6/26/2021

· Leon Oliwkowicz: 80 years old; recovered 6/26/2021

· Luis Bermudez: 26 years old; recovered 6/26/2021

· Anna Ortiz: 46 years old; recovered 6/26/2021

· Gladys Lozano, 79 years old; recovered 6/25/2021

· Manuel “Manny” LaFont, 54 years old; recovered 6/25/2021

· Stacie Dawn Fang: 54 years old; recovered 6/24/2021

· Antonio Lozano, 83 years old; recovered 6/24/2021

COMPLETE COVERAGE


About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.