The search for victims in one of the deadliest building collapses in U.S. history has come to an end after four weeks. Firefighters crews have scoured the debris left on the site of the catastrophe without finding evidence of additional casualties.
Miami-Dade Police Detective Lee Cowart confirmed that fire department search crews have vacated the site.
Officials had vowed to continue the search for people among roughly 11 tons of rubble that remained following the sudden destruction of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla., on June 24.
In all, 97 people have been confirmed dead — a significant drop from initial estimates of possible casualties, which suggested as many as 159 had been killed. That figure fell as authorities identified remains or discovered people who turned out not to have been in the building at the time of the collapse.
One person is thought to be unaccounted for.
The only victims who made it out alive were recovered from the site shortly after the tower came crashing down.
Of those whose bodies have since been unearthed, all but one have been identified, according to officials. However, the process became increasingly difficult due to a heat wave and flurry of rainstorms striking the area in recent weeks.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said last week that remains being recovered could no longer be visually identified.
“We’re relying heavily on the work of the medical examiner’s office,” Levine Cava said during a news briefing. “It’s a scientific process to identify human remains. As we’ve said, this work is becoming more difficult with the passage of time.”
There were also some setbacks in the round-the-clock search due to the dangerous and unstable conditions at the collapse site.
At least 22 million pounds of debris and concrete have been removed from the site, and officials warn the investigation is complex. They caution it will be a slow and deliberate process that will take time to complete. The site has been under the control of the Miami-Dade Police Department, classified as a crime scene.