Surfside building collapse recovery efforts continue as death toll rises to 86

Officials: 43 people remain ‘potentially unaccounted for’

The recovery efforts in Surfside are moving at a faster pace since the remaining structure was demolished nearly a week ago.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The recovery efforts in Surfside are moving at a faster pace since the remaining structure was demolished nearly a week ago.

On Saturday, work was paused briefly around 7 a.m. due to a lightning strike but resumed within an hour, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

Poor weather is expected to continue Saturday and first responders will work as much as are able to despite the rain and wind.

Six additional victims were recovered, the mayor said, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 86.

The mayor said 62 victims have been identified and 61 families or next of kin have been notified, while 43 people remain potentially unaccounted for.

“We can only truly account for a missing person that is deceased once an identification is made,” said Levine Cava.

Watch Saturday’s media briefing in full:

Saturday morning, officials released the identities of eight victims that had been removed from the rubble during the week.

The body of Elena Blasser, 64, was recovered Monday and Elena Chavez, 87, was recovered Tuesday, while Nicole Langesfeld, 26, Ana Mora, 70, and Marina Restrepo Azan, 76, were recovered on Wednesday and Miguel Pazos, 55, Richard Rovirosa, 60 and Oresme Gil Guerra, 60 were recovered Thursday.

Rescue workers also recovered the bodies of a 5-year-old child and 44-year-old on Thursday, but those identities were not released at the family’s request.

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Ray Jadallah reiterated Friday that rescue crews continue working above and beyond.

“Historically, recoveries don’t necessarily occur at night and we made it a point to operate 24 hours a day to bring closure to the families,” said Jadallah.

First responders have been working in dangerous conditions. On Friday, three workers required medical attention and another suffered a cardiac incident and had to be hospitalized.

Additionally, samples taken at the site have shown that the air is hazardous, especially on top of and around the rubble pile.

“Hazardous material technicians are constantly sampling and monitoring the air quality, and all first responders on the pile and in the surrounding area wear proper protective gear, including masks,” Levine Cava said Saturday.

It was earlier in the week on Wednesday when officials made the difficult decision to switch efforts from search and rescue to search and recovery.

In the days following the collapse, officials were quick to begin looking for other buildings in South Florida that could have similar issues, which included a condo in North Miami Beach and as of Friday, the Miami-Dade County Courthouse located downtown.

Engineers and officials have also been examining the Champlain Towers North, which was built by the same developer of the collapsed south towers and around the same time in 1981, with similar materials and design.

Surfside building collapse

About the Authors:

David Dwork joined the WPLG Local 10 News team in August 2019. Born and raised in Miami-Dade County, David has covered South Florida sports since 2007.

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.