On Wednesday, July 7, emergency workers broke the heartbreaking news to devastated families that there was no possibility of life under the wreckage of the Florida condo complex.
After a series of increasingly depressing reports from emergency authorities telling relatives of the victims to prepare for the worst-case scenario, now the team has officially switched their mission to search for remains.
“At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search-and-rescue mission,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press. “We have all asked God for a miracle, so the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one.”
The rescue mission has not been smooth throughout. Twice they had to postpone due to the unsteady remaining structure and preparing for its demolition.
The search proceeded on Wednesday under the rigorous weather conditions from Tropical Storm Elsa, which—though subsided significantly by midday—hit the crew with strong winds of 30 miles per hour a day earlier, making the rescue mission even more dangerous.
The casualty count on Wednesday has mounted to 54 with an addition of eight more bodies discovered on that day, the mayor said. Besides the thirty-three identified bodies, there were still 86 others still missing in the rubble.
At a private meeting, the Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah informed that the crew would continue searching for missing victims without rescue dogs and listening devices.
“Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” he delivered the news to the devastated families.
According to Jadallah, the “pancake collapse” in the Surfside condo is the unfortunate type that allows little liveable spaces, unlike those that may fall in a W-shaped manner that can still harbor living survivors.
“Where a pancake collapses, unfortunately, it is a floor or a wall on top of a floor on top of a floor on top of a floor,” he said. “Typically, an individual has a specific amount of time in regards to lack of food, water and air. This collapse just doesn’t provide any of that sort.”
The decision also came from an assessment of engineering, medical and other factors.
“The other factors that we have to include, you know, the fact that we did not get in the alert (from) a K-9, a sensor trip forward, sound, and any visual utilizing our cameras. The last known alert that we received was in the initial hours the day of the collapse,” Jadallah added.
Officials said the formal switch from rescue to recovery would occur at midnight, with a ceremony of silence set for just after 7 p.m.
Families gradually readied themselves for the news that their relatives did not survive after originally expecting miracle rescues.
“For some, what they’re telling us, it’s almost a sense of relief when they already know (that someone has died), and they can just start to put an end to that chapter and start to move on,” said Miami-Dade firefighter and paramedic Maggie Castro, who has updated families daily.