2 Children Identified as Condo Collapse Victims as 'Structural Concerns' Halt Search Operations
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said search and rescue operations would continue "as soon as it is safe to do so"
Search and recovery efforts at the site of the Florida condo collapse have been temporarily halted amid concerns about the stability of the standing building, one day after officials confirmed the deaths of the two youngest victims yet.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday that operations were paused early this morning "due to structural concerns about the standing structure."
The temporary stop in operations was based upon the expertise of on-site structural engineers who expressed fears about 6-12 inches of movement in a large column hanging from the structure that could possibly fall and damage support columns in the garage area, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said.
Cominsky also noted concerns about "slight movement" in concrete floor slabs on the south side of the building, as well as movement in a nearby debris pile.
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"We've been working in a very, very unsafe environment," he said. "Just last night, as we were actively producing our search and rescue efforts, our [crack] monitors went off. We had three that signaled there was some expansion… with those cracks, so immediately we removed, as well as there was shifting with that column."
Cava said the search and rescue operation would continue "as soon as it is safe to do so."
The pause comes just one day after police identified four additional victims in the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, which happened in the early hours of June 24. The total number of victims is 18 as of Thursday morning.
The bodies of Lucia Guara, 10, and her younger sister Emma Guara, 4, were recovered on Wednesday, making them the first child victims identified in the tragedy.
"Any loss of life, especially given the unexpected, unprecedented nature of this event is a tragedy. But the loss of our children is too great to bear," Mayor Cava said on Wednesday night. "We're now standing united once again with this terrible new revelation that children are the victims as well."
Anaely Rodriguez, 42, whom the Miami Herald reported was the girls' mother, was also identified by police, as was 21-year-old Andreas Giannitsopoulos.
Rodriguez's husband Marcus Guara, 52, was recovered on Saturday, and he was identified by police on Monday. The Herald reported that the family of four lived together on the eighth floor of Champlain Towers South.
A GoFundMe page in honor of the Guara family has raised more than $14,000, and friends have used the space as a way to pay tribute to their late loved ones.
"Lucia was in my mindfulness classes I offered at Ruth K. Broad [Bay Harbor Elementary School]," one woman wrote. "She was a bright light and brought her kind spirit to each weekly class. A beautiful soul."
As the search for additional survivors and victims heads into its eighth day, 139 people are now accounted for, and 147 remain missing.