Death Toll Of Surfside Condo Collapse Stands At 97 Exactly Three Weeks Later
SURFSIDE (CBSMiami) – Thursday marks three weeks since the deadly Surfside condo collapse, where rescue crews have recovered 97 bodies from the rubble.
90 have been identified including four additional victims whose names were released Thursday. Maria Notkin, 81, Valeria Barth, 14, Michelle Anna Pazos, 23, and Mihai Radulescu, 82.
Just a handful of people remain unaccounted for.
More than 22 million pounds of concrete and debris have been removed from the area where the Champlain Towers South once stood. The pile of rubble is now nearly level to the ground as excavators continue to remove piles of debris.
Search crews are taking great care to identify and preserve any personal property recovered.
On Wednesday, frantic 911 calls from the first moments of the collapse were released by the Miami-Dade Police Department.
"Yes, I'm at Champlain Tower, something is going on you have to get us out of here," said one caller to a Miami-Dade Police dispatcher.
The dispatcher asked, "Are you in your apartment right now?"
The caller replied, "Yes half the building is gone," and told the dispatcher they couldn't get out through the staircase. "No no, the staircase is closed. I'm on the balcony right now."
The calls show disbelief, panic and confusion.
"Oh my God! The whole building collapsed!" said another.
The names of the callers were not released.
Surfside condo collapse: Listen to 911 calls released by police
"We've gotta get out. Hurry up, hurry up. There's a big explosion," another caller said. "There's a lot of smoke. I can't see anything. We gotta go. I can't see nothing but smoke."
"It seems like something underground, everything exploded," said another caller, adding that it seemed like an earthquake.
Another caller, who told dispatchers they were in a parking garage, begged for help.
"I know the police are here already. Can somebody help me get out please?" the caller pleaded. "I was able to escape, but I'm outside in the parking lot. If the building comes down, it will come down on my head."
One caller told dispatchers their sister lived in the building, but was confused as to what happened and how people would get rescued.
"I don't know if something happened to it, but half of the building's not there anymore," the caller said. "There's two people, they are, they're alive but it, they can't get out because there's no building on the other side of their apartment."
The deadly collapse has spurred reviews of building safety across South Florida, as officials and residents scramble to figure out the vulnerability of aging structures.
The 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium was set for its four-decade recertification review when it collapsed.
Engineers and others investigating the cause of the collapse have been identifying key pieces of the 40-year-old building to determine what happened.
The search for answers includes an engineer hired by the town of Surfside, a team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, experts hired by lawyers representing families and others.
Part of the investigation will include what decisions were made by government building officials and the condominium board, which knew of serious structural problems with the tower as early as fall 2018. Some residents were reluctant to pay assessments in the tens of thousands of dollars for the repairs, leading to acrimonious board meetings.
There is also concern about the stability of Champlain Towers North, a nearly identical building next door built at the same time and by the same developer as its doomed sister structure. So far, no mandatory evacuation order has been given for that building.
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