The number of people missing in the Florida condominium collapse fell substantially on Friday, from 145 to 128, after duplicate names were eliminated and some residents reported missing turned up safe, officials said.
Authorities also announced the recovery of four more bodies, including the seven-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, raising the confirmed death toll to 22.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the number of missing declined following an audit. In some cases, when detectives were able to contact people who had been reported as potentially missing, they found that not only were they safe, but other members of their families were safe, too.
That pushed the list of people who have been accounted for up to 188 and reduced the number of missing, she said.
“So this is very, very good news,” she said, adding that the numbers are expected to keep changing because detectives are continually reviewing the list and verifying reports.
Detectives have worked around the clock to contact relatives and others. In some cases, English and Hebrew names have been offered for the same missing relative, officials have said.
The seven-year-old who died in the collapse was “a member of our fire family”, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said.
The discovery of the girl’s remains was especially hard on rescuers, Levine Cava said.
“It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders. These men and woman are paying an enormous human toll each and every day, and I ask that all of you please keep them in your thoughts and prayers,” she said at a news conference.
The mayor also said she signed an emergency order to demolish the remaining part of the building once engineers have signed off on it.
She said the order was signed now so that the demolition can move quickly once a date is set. Officials previously said it will likely be weeks before the demolition is scheduled.
No-one has been rescued since the first hours after the June 24 collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium.
During a meeting Friday with relatives of the missing, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said that only one voice has been heard during the entire search.
A woman’s voice was detected until about 10am or 11am on the morning of the collapse, which happened around 1:30am. Rescuers were unable to reach her, and he said no other voices or human sounds have been heard since.
Mr Jadallah also prepared the families members for a possible suspension of the search if Hurricane Elsa — now in the eastern Caribbean — brings strong winds to South Florida that would make the work too dangerous.
Some rescue workers who are now staying in tents will be moved to cruise ships, which can stay safe during a tropical storm, Mr Jadallah said.
About 600 first responders will stay on the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas, the cruise line said. The ship, which can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers, began housing rescue teams on Thursday and likely will continue for the next month.
Friday’s announcements came the day after concerns about the structure’s instability prompted a 15-hour halt to the search for survivors. Crews noticed widening cracks and up to a foot of movement in a large column.
The cause of the collapse is under investigation. A 2018 engineering report found that the building’s ground-floor pool deck was resting on a concrete slab that had “major structural damage” and needed extensive repairs. The report also found “abundant cracking” of concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.