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18 people confirmed dead in Florida condo collapse

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Condo collapse death toll climbs as rescuers persist
Condo collapse death toll climbs as rescuers ... 02:35

The death toll in the condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, climbed to 18 on Wednesday after additional victims were recovered. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the two bodies recovered Wednesday afternoon were those of a 4- and 10-year-old child.

No one has been pulled alive from the rubble since last Thursday, hours after the condominium crumbled in the middle of the night. More than 140 people remain unaccounted for. 

The collapse is not only one of the worst disasters in South Florida, but also in the country's history.

"This is the third largest building failure in the history of the United States – only third to Oklahoma and New York City — so we are doing everything that we can," Jimmy Patronis, Florida's chief financial officer, said, CBS Miami reported. He was referring to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the terror attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001.

Authorities in Florida have asked the federal government for another rescue team to help comb through the rubble as they face the possibility of severe weather in the days ahead. Two storm systems in the Atlantic could become tropical systems, according to the National Hurricane Center, but it's unclear if they would threaten the U.S.

"There are two areas of (possible storm) development out in the Atlantic, heading to the Caribbean. We have eight urban rescue teams in Florida. We talked about doing a relief," Kevin Guthrie of the Florida Division of Emergency Management said Tuesday night. "We have all the resources we need but we're going to bring in another team. We want to rotate those out so we can get more resources out."

Building Collapse Miami
People stand near a make-shift memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church near the Champlain Towers South residential condo on June 29, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Gerald Herbert/AP

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CBS News is talking to families, first responders and others impacted by the Florida building collapse as part of a special airing Thursday, July 1 at 8 p.m. ET. Download the CBS News app on your cellphone or connected TV to watch "Surfside Collapse: A Search for Answers."

 

Attorneys to file lawsuit and emergency motion

Two law firms will announce a lawsuit and an emergency motion on Wednesday on behalf of a man who is missing following the building collapse, according to a news release.

Attorneys from the firms Morgan & Morgan and Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky are expected to announce the lawsuit as well as a motion to preserve evidence and inspect the building's rubble.

"Morgan & Morgan and Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky are the most experienced law firms in the world in representing victims in structural collapse litigation," says a news release. "The firms have led, co-led, and litigated cases like the FIU bridge collapse in 2018, the Market Street Building and Pier 34 collapses in Philadelphia, the Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans in 2019, and the 2003 Tropicana parking garage collapse in Atlantic City."

 

Officials making plans in case of storm

The director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management said at a press conference Wednesday that the department is working with Miami-Dade County Emergency Management to develop contingency plans for severe weather, including tropical cyclones.

"As part of this planning, the division has requested a federal team to augment the efforts here so that we can free up some of our state assets to be able to respond to a tropical cyclone," said Kevin Guthrie.

"To be clear, this is contingency planning," he said. 

"If a system does develop, I want to ensure you we have contingency plans, which include facility relocation, communications, backup plans of how we will continue to respond here while responding to the hurricane."

Death toll rises to 16 in Florida condo colla... 39:18
 

16 confirmed dead in collapse

Four additional victims have been recovered, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 16, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced at a press conference late Wednesday morning.

She said the number of people who are unaccounted for now stands at 147.

"Please join me in continuing to pray for those who have lost their lives in this unthinkable tragedy and all of their families who are grieving and all of those who are still waiting and waiting and waiting for news," she said. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Authorities identify 92-year-old victim

Miami-Dade Police on Wednesday identified a victim in the collapse as 92-year-old Hilda Noriega, whose body was recovered on Tuesday.

"The Noriegas have lost the 'heart and soul' and 'matriarch' of their family, but will get through this time by embracing the unconditional love Hilda was known for," her family said in a statement, according to CBS Miami. 

Hilda was the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega. 

Hilda's grandson, Mike Noriega, called her "vibrant."

"She is the most vibrant, energetic person that I know. She lives for her faith, her family, her friends, definitely in that order. She's crazy about her family, and very, very social, probably the most popular person that I know," he said.

Mike Noreiga said when they went to the site right after the collapse, his father found a birthday card for Hilda in the rubble.

 

Area around collapse site at eerie standstill

The once bustling community of Surfside has shut down not only to mourn, but also to make way for the first responders still searching for those unaccounted for, CBS Miami reports.

"It's just sadness a lot of sadness in the community a lot of grief, it's been really hard," said Lourdes Elias, owner of Amoris Flowers.

Businesses from barbershops to restaurants along Harding Avenue near the horrific high-rise condo collapse remain at an eerie standstill.

"Even when it's busy, it's hard to get around. Ever since COVID, especially, we are so happy to see places thriving an people happy and on vacation - and it's hard to see it now," said Ronit Blisko, who lives in Surfside. "We try. We donate money, food, our time, but it doesn't feel like enough."

Collins Avenue remains closed from 81 St. to 91st St. Harding Ave. is closed as well from 81 St. to 96th St. They're both closed to the public except for those who live there, hotel staff and guests, along with business owners, employees and customers.

"Everywhere we turn its reporters, police rescue teams you name it, and the streets are empty," said Chani Lapkowski, who lives in the area.

 

Search continues for 7th day

The search for any survivors is continuing for a seventh day on Wednesday. Crews have worked tirelessly at the site since the collapse. 

The clearing of the debris must be done delicately to prevent falling pieces of rubble from causing a shift and potentially injuring search teams or possible survivors.

"This whole scene that we are working on, I can't emphasize enough the dangers we are in countering," said Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky, CBS Miami reports. "So I've definitely been monitoring. We will continue to monitor. Our teams have structural engineers."

900 workers from 50 local, state and federal agencies were working seamlessly on the search, said Charles Cyrille of the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency, the Associated Press reported. 

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