The number of people who have died in the collapse of a high-rise apartment building in Miami has risen to nine, officials say.
Speaking at a press conference, Miami-Dade’s county mayor Daniella Levine Cava said that eight bodies had been recovered from the rubble since Thursday’s disaster and another victim had died in hospital.
Four of the victims have been identified: Stacie Fang, 54, Antonio Lozano, 83, Gladys Lozano, 79, and Manuel LaFont, 54.
The number of dead is expected to rise, with more than 150 people still missing.
Experts from Israel and Mexico have joined the search and rescue effort, aided by search dogs, sonar, drones and infrared scanning.
There is still hope that some people have been able to survive in air pockets formed in the debris.
On Saturday, Ms Cava had said the efforts were being hampered by a fire in the wreckage, but she said on Sunday that the blaze had been dealt with.
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Asked by Sky’s Martha Kelner when the search and rescue operation would become a “search and recovery operation”, fire chief Alan Cominsky said crews would keep looking for survivors for “as long as we can”.
“The biggest thing now is hope,” he said.
“That’s what’s driving us. It’s an extremely difficult situation.”
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The work of first responders continues around the clock in the effort to find survivors in void spaces within the rubble of the #SurfsideBuildingCollapse. pic.twitter.com/TZn52VpJEy
— Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (@MiamiDadeFire) June 27, 2021
It comes after the publication of an engineers’ report completed three years ago, which warned of structural problems at Champlain Towers South, the collapsed building.
The report said that the 12-storey apartment block would need $9.1m (£6.5m) in repairs to fix defects that included major structural damage beneath the pool deck and “concrete deterioration” in the underground carpark.
Donna DiMaggio Berger, a lawyer who works with the residents’ association, said the board had taken out a $12m (£8.6m) line of credit to pay for the repairs and asked owners to pay $80,000 (£57,000) each.
Roof repairs had started and the board had been gathering bids for the concrete work, but the pandemic had slowed the project, she added.
It was not clear if the damage described in the report was connected to the collapse, but Gregg Schlesinger, a lawyer and former general contractor who specialises in construction-failure cases, appeared convinced.
He said investigations and the inevitable lawsuits would eventually reveal the full story, but he added: “We do know one thing: there was a structural failure.
“We know another thing: The structural failure should not have occurred.”
The collapse has left people living in surrounding blocks nervous, none more so than the residents of Champlain Towers North, the sister building to Champlain Towers South.
The two blocks built just one year apart, with the same design and same builders, yet residents of the north tower have been told that evacuation is not necessary.