Death toll from Florida apartment block collapse climbs to 94

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The death toll in the collapse of a Florida apartment block has climbed to 94, as officials plan to step up security at the site to make sure the personal possessions of the victims are preserved for their families.

Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 22 people remain unaccounted for after the June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South, an oceanside building in Surfside.

Ms Levine Cava said 83 victims have been identified but “the process of making identifications has been made more difficult as time goes on”.

Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava
Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/AP)

“It’s obvious that this has become much more than a collapsed building site,” he said. “It has become a holy site.”

Miami-Dade Police Department director Alfredo Ramirez III said there has been “no criminality” at the site, but officials want to make sure the area is secure so crews can continue to preserve personal items found in the rubble.

“As families are being notified about their family members, the ask is always about property. People want some sort of connection to their family member, so it’s very important that our process that we have in place continues to flow uninterrupted,” he said during a news conference.

“It’s just part of the process. This is a long, painful, hurtful process,” he said.

Charles Burkett
Charles Burkett (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/AP)

Ms Levine Cava also addressed the announcement on Sunday that a vaccinated Miami-Dade county commissioner who helped other local officials in Surfside has tested positive for Covid-19.

The news release from Miami-Dade County Commission chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz said he and his chief of staff, Isidoro Lopez, who also received a vaccine, came down with flu-like symptoms earlier in the day and later tested positive for the virus.

Ms Levine Cava said officials who were in close proximity to the two men have been tested and have come back negative.

“Breakthrough” infections — fully vaccinated individuals who contract coronavirus — do happen, although they are very rare.

An Associated Press analysis of government data in May showed only about 1% of such cases resulted in hospital admission or death. The analysis suggested nearly all Covid-19 deaths in the US recently have been in people who were not vaccinated.

Last week, Florida health officials reported an increase in Covid-19 cases and a higher positive test rate than other recent weeks.

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