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Death toll in Florida condo collapse climbs to 78

Number rises by 16 in 24 hours, with 62 others still unaccounted for; Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says work to recover victims continuing with urgency

A workers make her way past the rubble and debris of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Florida on July 6, 2021. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)
A workers make her way past the rubble and debris of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Florida on July 6, 2021. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)

SURFSIDE, Florida (AP) — The death toll in the collapse of a Miami-area condo building rose to 78 on Friday, a number the mayor called “heartbreaking” as recovery workers toiled for a 16th day to find victims in the rubble. Another 62 people remain unaccounted for.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the work to recover victims was still continuing with all urgency.

The updated death toll was 16 people higher than what it was 24 hours earlier.

“This is a staggering and heartbreaking number that affects all of us very deeply,” Levine Cava said of the new death toll.

On Thursday, Paraguay’s foreign minister said in a radio report that the body of the sister of that country’s first lady was among those found. Several Latin American citizens were reported in the building when it collapsed. Rescue workers now focused on finding remains instead of survivors have pledged to keep up their search for victims until they clear all the debris at the site.

The painstaking search for survivors shifted to a recovery effort at midnight Wednesday after authorities said they had come to the agonizing conclusion that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside.

Hope of finding survivors was briefly rekindled after workers demolished the remainder of the building, allowing access to new areas of debris. Some voids where survivors could have been trapped did exist, mostly in the basement and the parking garage, but no one was found alive. Instead, teams recovered more than a dozen additional victims.

Workers make their way past the rubble and debris of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Florida on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald via AP)

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

State and local officials have pledged financial assistance to families of the victims, as well as to residents of the building who survived but lost all their possessions. Meanwhile, authorities are launching a grand jury investigation into the collapse. And at least six lawsuits have been filed by families.

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