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The last missing person in the Florida building collapse has been accounted for and identified, officials said Monday, more than 30 days after part of the 12-story beachfront condo crashed down onto itself, leaving the community of Surfside reeling.
The final death toll reached 98, with victims including children, one just a year old. Of the 98 victims, 97 were recovered from the site of the collapse. One person died at a hospital.
Even though search teams have now recovered all of the victims that were reported missing, officials will continue sifting through the debris "to ensure that all identifiable human remains are recovered," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
"This tragedy at Surfside will be something that lives with all of us forever," Cava said during a press briefing. She added that while the collapse "befell one small, close-knit community," it "knit together all of us," offering "a powerful and lasting reminder of how deeply connected we truly are in the best of times and in the worst of times."
The condo building partially collapsed in the early hours of June 24, sparking a massive search and rescue operation that stretched out over several agonizing weeks. At one point, more than 150 people were unaccounted for, a number that was revised down as officials made contact with people who were not at the building at the time of the collapse and discovered duplicates on a list of potential residents.
The only people who survived the collapse were pulled from the rubble in the first few hours, yet loved ones kept holding out hope for news of more survivors. As the days turned into weeks, that hope dimmed.
A Surfside resident previously told BuzzFeed News, "We all want to be hopeful, obviously, for all the obvious reasons, but I mean, at the same time, you want to be a realist, and we’re already going on the second week now."
Emergency personnel from across the state, as well as rescue teams from Mexico and Israel, were deployed to the site of the collapse to help with the effort.
Officials repeatedly cautioned that the mission was a dangerous one. The building pancaked when it fell, and first responders had to maneuver carefully on top and underneath the large mound of rubble. Fires broke out at times, and the prospect of tropical storm–force winds threatened to further hamper rescue efforts.
Nearly two weeks after the collapse, officials demolished the standing portion of the building, which Cava previously said was being held up by some of the rubble.
By the third week, officials announced that they were no longer conducting a rescue effort. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at that time that rescue teams "did all that they could."
First responders continued to conduct a recovery mission to find the remains of the victims.
"At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search and rescue mission," Cava added.
The Miami-Dade Police Department will lead the ongoing effort to look for any additional human remains and personal items that may still be left in the debris field.
"We’ve reached the 98, but that does not mean that we’re done," said Police Director Alfredo Ramirez III. "We’re still working the evidence piles and we will continue until we deem that we’ve done everything we can."
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Surfside Residents Are Coming Together Over Bagels To Grieve The Condo Collapse And Help Their Tight-Knit CommunityAmber Jamieson · July 3, 2021