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Surfside building collapse scene transitions to search and recovery, workers no longer listening for signs of life

18 victims found in Surfside Wednesday, bringing death toll to 54

Efforts in Surfside have transitioned from a search and rescue to a search and recovery.
Efforts in Surfside have transitioned from a search and rescue to a search and recovery.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Officials have transitioned from a search-and-rescue to a search-and-recovery at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse in Surfside.

“The decision to switch from rescue to recovery was an extremely difficult one,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

An additional 18 victims were recovered in Surfside on Wednesday, bringing the official death toll to 54.

The latest victims to be identified were Elaine Lia Sabino, 71, Graciela Cattarossi, 86, Gino Cattarossi, 89, and Simon Segal, 80. The bodies of all four were recovered on Tuesday.

Levine Cava said Wednesday that 86 people are still potentially unaccounted for.

Crews requested to pause for a moment of silence when the transition happened at approximately 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.

A stream of that moment can be seen below:

The mayor stressed that detectives are working feverishly to contact everyone who was reported missing after the collapse to determine whether or not that person was actually inside the building at the time.

“Our top priority though this entire operation since day one was do to everything humanly possible to search for survivors,” Levine Cava said. “At this point, we have truly exhausted every resource possible in the search-and- rescue mission.”

The mayor tried to hold back tears Wednesday morning as she and other officials provided the community with an update on the search.

“As the magnitude of the collapse continues to grow every day, our community and the world are grieving with every family,” she said.

The mayor also praised first responders, some of who she spoke to in the morning before their shift.

“Our first responders have searched that pile every single day since the collapse, as if they’re searching for their own loved ones,” she said.

WATCH: Wednesday 6 p.m. news conference on Surfside search

Without the threat of a falling tower, there is now more manpower above the pile of rubble where a portion of the Champlain Towers South condominium building collapsed on June 24.

More than 200 first responders from across the country are working all areas of the site, digging for closure.

During a Wednesday morning press briefing on Tropical Storm Elsa, Gov. Ron DeSantis also touched on the ongoing search for victims in Surfside.

He said he had asked multiple officials whether it was possible for residents to go inside the standing structure before it was demolished Sunday night to retrieve some of their valuables, but “every single person said it was too dangerous.”

“It’s going to be a deep wound for a long time,” the governor said about the partial building collapse, adding that he has been touched by the support shown from around the community and the world, and how people have come together during this time.

He also praised the first responders who risked their lives searching for victims as the unstable portion of the building that did not collapse still stood.

Now that it has been demolished, more access to the site means a better assessment of where victims might be.

“So for example, if we have learned that there was someone on the 11th floor and there was somebody at the seventh floor, between 11 and 7, we can proceed a little more quickly,” Levine Cava said Tuesday.

Personal items can be seen among the debris, including furniture, cushions and clothing.

Those in charge say the effort continues to be a search-and-rescue mission.

But they admit that so far, they’ve found no signs or even the possibility of life.

“Unfortunately, we’re not seeing anything positive that continues in that sense -- void space, livable spaces -- you know, we’re not coming across that,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said.


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.