SURFSIDE, Fla. — A 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter was among two additional bodies found overnight in the rubble of the collapsed condo building outside Miami, raising the death toll to 20 with 128 people still missing.
“This tragedy has haunted so many of us because so many of us know somebody who was in the building or affected by this tragedy,” City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said Friday at a news conference. “Now, not only do we know someone, but this is someone who is a member of our family, of our fire family.”
The father was not involved in the recovery process.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called the night “uniquely difficult” for first responders.
“Please keep all of them in your thoughts and prayers,” she said. “They truly represent the very best in all of us and we need to be there for them as they’ve been there for us.”
Meanwhile, rescue and recovery teams are closely monitoring Hurricane Elsa as officials warn the area may see tropical storm force winds as early as midday Sunday.
Here’s what we know Friday:
Hurricane Elsa hampers rescue efforts
Friday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on-site teams are preparing for potential tropical storm force winds and heavy rainfall that may come as early as midday Sunday. He said he is putting together a potential emergency order today.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service will be on site to Friday to brief the search teams, Levine Cava said.
Possible severe weather may further delay search and rescue efforts, Kevin Guthrie of the Florida Division of Emergency Management said earlier this week. His team is working with the National Hurricane Center and state meteorologists to develop contingency plans for severe weather.
Rescuers were already coping with near-daily thunderstorms and lightning, which forced suspensions of rescue efforts.
Heavy rains Thursday night led to muddy conditions and pools of water in the streets and parking lots surrounding the collapse site on Friday. More rain is expected to move in early Friday afternoon through the evening, creating even more dangerous situations for rescuers.
Extensive concrete damaged found last fall, but repair efforts were suspended
In a summary of work performed in October by Morabito Consultants, the company reported extensive concrete deterioration and corrosion of reinforcement at Champlain Towers South. It discovered several issues, including potentially deep deterioration of concrete near the pool area.
Full restoration and repair work “could not be performed” because the pool “was to remain in service for the duration of the work” and because the necessary aggressive excavation of concrete at the pool “could affect the stability of the remaining adjacent concrete constructions.”
Experts cautioned it’s unlikely the findings in the report reveal the root cause of the building collapse, which remains unknown. However, documents obtained by USA TODAY reveal new clues about the building’s dramatic state of disrepair.
This report included issues with the wall and edge of the swimming pool, a deteriorated stair column, core samples of the building’s structural concrete slab, holes cut to investigate problems with soffits over the garage and demolition of deteriorated concrete in balcony soffits and stucco.
Of these, only two actual repairs were done: of the deteriorating stair column and removal of deteriorated concrete and stucco from the balconies.
— Elizabeth Weise and Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, USA TODAY
Rescue efforts resume after temporary pause; potential demolition
Work restarted Thursday afternoon after a 14-hour pause due to concerns about the stability of the part of the building still standing. On-site engineers had identified one column that had shifted 6 to 12 inches and three cracks were expanding.
Levine Cava said Thursday that plans were underway for the “likely” demolition of this portion of the remaining building. But experts said it could be a while before there’s a timeline for demolition.
“This is a decision that we need to make extremely carefully and methodically as we consider all the possible impacts to the pile of debris and to our search-and-rescue operation,” Levine Cava said.
FEMA’s search and rescue incident support team was working with local officials to look at different plans for demolishing the remaining structure, said Scott Nachman, the team’s structure specialist.
In a “best-case scenario,” it would take weeks to establish a demolition timeline, he said.
Biden visits first responders, families at Surfside
During a visit to Surfside on Thursday, President Joe Biden announced the federal government is covering 100% of the costs to the county and state for the first 30 days of the building collapse search and rescue operation.
He noted the Federal Emergency Management Agency will also provide temporary housing for survivors, and he ordered the State Department to expedite visas for family members from other countries who had loved ones in the condo.
Meanwhile, Biden and first lady Jill Biden thanked first responders and praised the U.S. for coming together to support grieving families.
“They’re going through hell,” Biden said of the families he met with who either escaped the building or still have loved ones missing. “Jill and I wanted them to know that we’re with them. That the country is with them. Our message today is that we’re here for you, as one nation.”
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Biden’s role as “consoler-in-chief” brought “so much more relief and reassurance and comfort” to families.
She also thanked the federal government for covering costs of the first 30 days of the operation. “Knowing that those costs are going to be taken care of … is really important and takes the burdens off the governments here responding,” Schultz said.
— Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
Remembering those who died
Of the 20 people confirmed dead, authorities released these names: Stacie Fang, 54; Marcus Joseph Guara, 52, his wife Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and their daughters Lucia Guara, 10, and Emma Guara, 4; Frank Kleiman, 55; Michael Davis Altman, 50; Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and his wife, Christina Beatriz Elvira de Oliwkowicz, 74; Luis Bermudez, 26, and his mother, Ana Ortiz, 46; Antonio Lozano, 83, and his wife Gladys Lozano, 79; Manuel LaFont, 54; and Hilda Noriega, 92.
Contributing: Jennifer Sangalang and Ginny Beagan, USA TODAY; Rick Neale, Florida Today; Jesse Mendoza, Herald-Tribune