SURFSIDE, Fla. – Two weeks after a massive, waterfront condominium building crashed to the ground here, workers dug through rubble Thursday knowing that any faint hope of finding survivors had been abandoned.
The death toll rose to 60 with the discovery of six more bodies, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced Thursday morning. She said 35 had been identified.
Several hours earlier, at midnight, the focus formally turned to recovering remains. Emergency teams removed rescue dogs and sound devices. At about 1:20 a.m., work halted briefly for a moment of silence to mark two weeks since the stunning collapse.
“It's officially two weeks since this unthinkable and unprecedented tragedy shook our community and the world," Levine Cava said at a news conference Thursday. "The work continues with all speed and urgency."
Levine Cava said 80 people were unaccounted for, and officials were clinging to the hope that some of them were not in Champlain Tower South when it collapsed. Levine Cava insisted detectives continued following leads to identify residents who may have been elsewhere.
Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told families in a private meeting that, after searching all areas of debris, officials have concluded it will be next to impossible to find people alive.
“Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” he said, adding that workers concluded there was "no chance of life.''
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was working with lawmakers to provide tax waivers and other aid to survivors.
"We want to do all we can for the survivors and family members and get them on their feet as soon as we can," DeSantis said. "Pretty soon there won't be cameras here, but we know the needs will continue."
It was not clear how long the search for human remains would go on. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said he expects it will take several more weeks.
Dennis Dirkmaat, an anthropology professor who chairs the Department of Applied and Forensic Sciences at Mercyhurst University, said he expects crews will use heavy equipment to methodically lift material off the debris pile, place it in containers and evaluate it for evidence of human remains.
He said the process would likely be repeated as the crews move to subsequent floors.
“It’s still a process, slow, tedious process of removing all of this debris. And so it’s going to take a while,” he said.
Surfside officials were struggling to come to grips with the magnitude of the tragedy. The town's mayor, Charles Burkett, said Wednesday that Surfside has "many steps to go through" before he can foresee a moment of healing or closure.
"This is not leaving any of us, ever," Burkett said. "This is a catastrophe of global proportions. ... And it happened to happen in Surfside. And we got to deal with that. And I'm not quite sure how we are going to deal with that."
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va. Contributing: Antonio Fins and Mark Woods, Palm Beach Post; The Associated Press