The weekslong search-and-rescue effort underway at the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South building was abandoned Thursday, as officials acknowledged there was now “zero chance of survival” for anyone unaccounted for in the rubble. The mission will now transition into a search-and-recovery operation at the Miami-area site. Officials have been able to confirm at least 70 currently unaccounted for people were in the building when it collapsed on June 24; as many as two dozen others are still missing and thought to have been inside the condo that night. On the final day of the search, additional bodies were found, bringing the confirmed death toll to 54, making the Champlain Tower collapse one of the deadliest structural collapses in U.S. history.
Officials informed families of the unaccounted for Wednesday that the arduous two-week rescue mission was coming to a close. “At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search-and-rescue mission,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference. The search effort used rescue dogs and high tech listening devices and sensors to detect any movement, but workers have not recovered anyone alive in the wreckage since the first hours after the 12-story structure collapsed more than two weeks ago. Since then, rescue teams have worked through the night under dangerous conditions, sifting through million pounds of concrete and other debris looking for signs of life.
The remaining portion of the building that did not fall made the mission all the more dangerous as there were concerns about whether it would hold as rescue workers looked for survivors. Difficult weather conditions at the seaside site complicated the search that continued even as Tropical Storm Elsa moved up the opposite coast of Florida, spinning off 30 mph winds and rain on the Surfside site. A controlled demolition of the remaining structure over the weekend had raised hopes that survivors could be found in hidden pockets of the building, like stairwells and basement areas, or in between smothered cars, but the pancake nature of the collapse left few survivable spaces in the rubble. The recovery operation will likely continue for several more weeks, while the process determine the cause of the collapse will take far longer.