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Mayor: 2 more victims found in debris; death toll at 18

Condo Building Collapse Miami Surfside
Posted at 7:39 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 22:33:42-04

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday evening that rescuers recovered the bodies of two additional victims from the rubble of a collapsed condo building in Surfside, Florida.

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The recovery of the two additional victims brings the death toll from Thursday's collapse to 18. Levine Cava added that 145 people presumed to be in the building at the time of the collapse are still missing.

She added that 139 people in the building are now accounted for — a decrease from yesterday's numbers. Levine Cava clarified that the figure dropped because officials are no longer including the dead as those who are "accounted for."

Levina Ceva added that the victims found Wednesday were those of two children, ages 4 and 10.

Officials also added Wednesday that the search for victims could be hindered by a tropical cyclone 5 which is forming in the Atlantic Ocean, that has the potential to threaten fragile Surfside collapse.

"We coordinated with the Hurricane Center to determine how this system will impact our state and how we can begin to preparing for its impact,” said Kevin Guthrie of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

While no survivors have been pulled from the rubble since Thursday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said his crews have not moved into recovery mode.

"It's absolutely still a search and rescue mission," Cominsky said.

Levine Cava said that the county was in the process of notifying the next of kin of the four victims recovered last night and added their identities would be made public once that process was complete.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Miami-Dade Police identified one of the victims that pulled from the rubble as 92-year-old Hilda Noriega.

According to Scripps station WPTV in Palm Beach, Florida, Noriega was the mother of North Bay Village Police Chief Carlos Noriega. North Bay Village is located just a few miles from the Champlain South Towers.

Earlier this week, Hilda Noriega's grandson, Michael, remembered her as a loving matriarch.

"My grandmother is easily the most loving person I know," Carlos Noriega told WPTV earlier this week. "She is 92 years old going on 62 years old. Just full of energy, we couldn't keep up with her."

Hilda Noriega is the oldest victim recovered from the wreckage thus far.

Twelve of the 18 people who have died in the incident have been identified. They are:

  • Hilda Noriega, 92
  • Antonio Lozano, 83
  • Leon Oliwkowicz, 80
  • Gladys Lozano, 79
  • Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74
  • Frank Kleiman, 55
  • Staci Dawn Fang, 54
  • Manuel LaFont, 54
  • Marcus Joseph Guara, 52
  • Michael David Altman, 50
  • Anna Ortiz, 46
  • Luis Bermudez, 26

Those leading search-and-rescue efforts have turned their eyes to weather forecasts, as the National Hurricane Center reported that it's monitoring two disturbances in the Atlantic Ocean that may develop into tropical storms.

Guthrie said his agency asked for an additional team from the federal government. He said the new unit would allow crews working at the site for days to rotate out and be on hand if severe weather hits the area in the coming days.

Guthrie clarified that all plans to take rescuers off the pile are "contingencies" at this point. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state must be prepared in the event of a tropical storm.

"We hope we don't have to, but 'tis the season, and you have to be ready," he said.

Rescuers are continuing to work despite occasional rain showers in the area. Wednesday morning's press conference was held in a driving rainstorm as first responders continued their work.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett clarified that K9 dogs searching for survivors should not be affected by the wind and rain and added that dog crews are still "very, very active."

"We're not leaving anybody behind. This is going to go until we pull everyone out of here," Burkett said.