UPDATE: 10 more bodies found in Surfside condo collapse rubble, taking death toll to 46

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Originally Published: 07 JUL 21 02:44 ET
Updated: 07 JUL 21 11:34 ET

(CNN) — Ten more bodies were found in the rubble of a condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, pushing the confirmed death toll to 46 — with another 94 people still unaccounted for, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday.

“As the magnitude of this catastrophe continues to grow each and every day since the collapse, our community and the world are grieving with all of the families who are living through this unthinkable tragedy,” she said.

Search and rescue efforts to find survivors amid the rubble of the building have become increasingly grim. On Tuesday, Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said there were no signs of any voids or livable spaces in the wreckage where people might have survived.

“We’re definitely searching,” he said. “We’re not coming across that.”

The search continued Wednesday through inclement weather from Tropical Storm Elsa, which passed by the opposite coast of Florida. Winds of up to 30 miles per hour walloped crews Tuesday, but the weather had largely cleared by midday Wednesday, Cava said.

The condo’s collapse has raised questions about whether other residential structures could be at risk in Miami-Dade County, where sea levels are rising, the salty air is corrosive and nearly two-thirds of all commercial, condo and apartment buildings are as old or older than the 40-year-old building that collapsed, according to a CNN analysis of county records.

Florida’s legal community has created a safety task force to review laws governing the state’s condominium development industry in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of a condo building in Miami-Dade County two weeks ago, according to a statement Tuesday.

The Condominium Law and Policy on Life Safety Task Force is intended to serve residents of the state and was created by the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar, according to the statement.

“The Task Force will serve as a resource to the Governor and Legislature as they review all aspects of Florida condominium law, development, association operations, and maintenance to determine and recommend if legislative and or regulatory changes should be enacted to minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy,” Bob Swain, chairperson of the Florida Bar Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section, said in a statement.

How to help Surfside Victims

Teams not finding anything positive, but still more space to search

Officials have said that despite the time that has passed, they remain hopeful they will still find survivors. The key to finding survivors, Cominsky said, is finding voids or livable spaces among the rubble.

About 5 million pounds of debris have been removed from the site so far, Cominsky said.

But with the amount of ground to cover, there is no telling what the teams will find in the coming days, Cominsky said.

The site has been broken up into grids, none of which have been fully cleared yet. The way the building collapsed as well as the magnitude of it means that teams have been able to get further down on some areas than others so far, he said.

Teams continue to search “as aggressive as we can to see if we can assist with the families and locate individuals,” he said.

Tuesday was a day of gratitude for one family, when the uncle of a 15-year-old called the man who pulled the boy from the rubble just after the collapse to thank him.

Nicholas Balboa told CNN on Tuesday that he heard 15-year-old Jonah Handler screaming under the rubble after the condo building collapsed. Balboa was not in the building but was standing nearby when it collapsed.

Balboa said Jonah’s uncle told him Jonah was out of the hospital with only minor injuries.

Since the collapse, Balboa says he has replayed that moment in his mind many times, wondering what he could have done differently to save more people, he said.

Four additional bodies were recovered Tuesday, Levine Cava said. The victims of the collapse range in age from 4 to 92.

With rescue efforts still underway, some families have asked to visit the collapse site, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

“Of course, we have to work around the rescue efforts,” he said. “I think it would be very, very good for those families to again see the amazing efforts that are being expended on their behalf.”

Debris held for investigation

Meanwhile, more federal organizations are investigating why the building collapsed.

Mayor Levine Cava said the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the US Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation are sending staff.

“NIST, our federal partner, continues to work closely with the structural specialists, with detectives, and the fire rescue crews on site, as the evidence gathering process is well underway,” she said.

“They’re capturing all possible insights from the debris and all evidence is being properly tagged and logged.”

All of the debris removed from the site is considered “evidentiary debris,” Levine Cava said.

The remnants are being sorted on-site, and any objects that can be distinguished are put in certain bins and labeled as to their exact location, the mayor said.

The county has created a form for family members to document their belongings, which will be an active part of the investigation, Levine Cava said.

“The families are not reviewing what’s come out of the site at this time, but we have photographs, they have their information, and as we move forward, we’ll be attempting to do matching and releasing it to them as soon as we can, given the active investigation,” she said.

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