Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Search and rescue teams continue to work in the rubble at the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Fla., on July 6, 2021.

EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP/Getty Images

Emergency workers gave up Wednesday on any hope of finding survivors in the collapsed Florida condo building, telling sobbing families that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble as crews shifted their efforts to recovering more remains.

The announcement followed increasingly sombre reports from emergency officials, who said they sought to prepare families for the worst.

“At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search-and-rescue mission,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference.

Story continues below advertisement

“We have all asked God for a miracle, so the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one,” she said.

Eight more bodies were recovered Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 54, the mayor said. Thirty-three of the dead have been identified, and 86 people are still unaccounted for.

Former Montrealer Ingrid Ainsworth first Canadian identified among Florida condo collapse victims

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told families at a private briefing that crews would stop using rescue dogs and listening devices but would continue to search for their loved ones.

“Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” he said as relatives cried in the background.

Unlike some collapses that create W-shaped spaces where people can survive, a “pancake collapse” like the one in Surfside tends not to leave livable spaces, Jadallah said.

“Where a pancake collapses, unfortunately it is a floor or a wall on top of a floor on top of a floor on top of a floor,” he said. “Typically, an individual has a specific amount of time in regards to lack of food, water and air. This collapse just doesn’t provide any of that sort.”

Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said he expected the recovery operation to take several more weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

The formal transition was to take place at midnight. Hours before the official change of mission, rescue workers, their helmets held to their hearts and their boots covered in dust, joined local officials, rabbis and chaplains in a moment of silence. The rabbis and chaplains walked down a line of officials, many of them sobbing, and hugged them one by one.

A Miami-Dade fire helicopter flew over the site. As the ceremony neared its end, an accordion player unseen on a nearby tennis court played Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which was followed by a piccolo playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Firefighters from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the federal government and elsewhere were also present.

On a tall nearby fence, families and well-wishers had posted photos of the victims, supportive messages and flowers. Firefighters hung a banner atop the fence that read “Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Mourns With You.”

Hope of finding survivors was briefly rekindled after workers demolished the remainder of the building on Sunday, allowing rescuers access to new areas of debris they hoped would contain “voids,” or open pockets with enough room for a person.

Some of those voids did exist, mostly in the basement and the parking garage, but no survivors emerged. Instead, teams recovered more than a dozen additional victims. Because the building fell in the early morning hours, many residents were found dead in their beds.

No one has been pulled out alive since the first hours after the 12-story Champlain Towers South building fell on June 24.

Story continues below advertisement

Twice during the search, rescuers had to suspend the mission because of the instability of the remaining structure and the preparation for demolition.

After initially hoping for miraculous rescues, families slowly braced themselves for the news that their relatives did not survive.

“For some, what they’re telling us, it’s almost a sense of relief when they already know (that someone has died), and they can just start to put an end to that chapter and start to move on,” said Miami-Dade firefighter and paramedic Maggie Castro, who has updated families daily.

Authorities launched a grand jury investigation into the collapse, and at least six lawsuits have been filed by Champlain Towers families.

The president of the neighbouring Champlain Towers North condo association said engineers hired by the city arrived Tuesday to conduct three days of tests at the building, which has a similar design and was built around the same time as Champlain Towers South.

“They are checking from one end of the building to the other, and everything is fine,” Naum Lusky told The Associated Press.

Story continues below advertisement

Since the south building collapsed, he has insisted his tower is safe because his association kept up the maintenance and did not allow problems to fester.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies