• The Star Staff

Death toll rises to 16 in Florida condo’s collapse


By Neil Vigdor, Richard Fausset, Christina Morales, Frances Robles,

Campbell Robertson and Mitch Smith


The death toll in last week’s collapse of a condominium building in Sunrise, Florida, rose by four, to 16, on Wednesday, as authorities said more bodies were recovered from the rubble overnight.


At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Danielle Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said as many as 147 people remained missing, nearly a week after the desperate search for survivors began.


Earlier, a leader of an Israeli rescue team helping with the search of Champlain Towers South told CNN that the additional bodies had been recovered overnight as crews crawled through newly discovered tunnels in the debris.


“These tunnels that we found right now were almost the first to be big enough to enable people to stay between them,” said Col. Golan Vach, the Israeli official, who added that he had hope that survivors might still be located, but that those prospects were dimming as the days elapsed.


Search teams said Tuesday that they had removed more than 3 million pounds of debris from the wreckage since Thursday, when a section of the oceanfront complex caved in during the early morning hours.


Yet as the pile of concrete, steel and personal effects slowly began to diminish, new warning signs pointing to the building’s critical failure began to emerge. A letter that the president of the condominium association wrote to residents in April publicly surfaced, revealing deep concerns about the building’s condition less than three months before it gave way.


While officials emphasized that they had adequate resources, they acknowledged that the demanding search and the unforgiving elements had placed a heavy burden on emergency responders.


On Tuesday evening, they said they had requested an additional urban search-and-rescue team from the federal government, which is sending President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, to Surfside on Thursday.


The extra search-and-rescue team would be placed on standby in case a tropical storm forms in the coming week. The officials said they were monitoring two weather systems in the Atlantic Ocean.


Miami-Dade County officials have declined to release a list of names of the nearly 150 people who remain unaccounted for.


Magaly Delgado, 80, who left Cuba in the early 1960s, fearing she would speak out against the revolution, was among them, said her daughter Magaly Ramsey. On Monday afternoon, she was allowed to visit the site of the tragedy, where she decided that her mother had not survived.


“I’m a very logical, tough woman,” said Ramsey, who had a question for a rescue official nearby. Can a body just disintegrate?


The answer, Ramsey recalled in an interview, was “yes.”