Florida condo collapse: Death toll rises to 96; 911 calls released

Mourners stop to pay respects to the missing victims at the memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church near the collapsed Champlain Towers condo in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI

July 15 (UPI) — The death toll from a Surfside, Fla., condo collapse increased to 96 Wednesday as officials released some of the 911 calls made immediately after the tragedy.

The Miami-Dade Police Department confirmed the death of an additional victim as searchers worked to uncover the remaining victims of the collapse.

Though 96 bodies have been recovered from the rubble, searchers were still looking for multiple victims who were unaccounted for. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the process of identifying the recovered remains has become more complicated.

“At this step in the recovery process, we’re relying heavily on the work of the medical examiner’s office,” she said, according to WPLG-TV in Miami. “It’s a scientific, methodical process to identify human remains. This work is becoming more difficult with the passage of time. Although our teams are working as hard as they can, it takes time.”

NBC News reported that workers were collecting personal belongings of the victims as they sifted through the rubble. It’s unclear, though, how the items, which include jewelry, cash, art, firearms and toys, will be returned to the residents.

Miami-Dade County Police Sgt. Danny Murillo said the items were being cataloged and stored until they can be returned to owners.

“Our main goal is to recover property which has a sentimental and religious value,” he said. “It means making sure that the process was done carefully and meticulously, and we hope eventually to return the property to its rightful owners.”

The department, meanwhile released some of the 911 calls made the morning of the collapse on June 24. One caller was among a group of people who ran out of their apartments and became trapped in the parking garage. The group appeared to be unaware that a large section of the building collapsed.

“We are going back up to our apartments but some of the hallways are blocked and there is water coming in through to the bottom, through the garage,” the caller said.

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