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Rescuers unrelenting as toll rises to 64 in condo collapse

Families of victims, residents of the buildings who survived will get financial assistance

SNS | SURFSIDE |

Rescue workers vowed on Thursday to be unrelenting in their search for victims until they cleared all the debris at the site and focused on finding remains instead of survivors.

Earlier, a fire official told family members at a meeting that crews “will not stop working until they’ve gotten to the bottom of the pile and recovered every single of the families’ missing loved ones,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said at an evening news conference. He did not identify the official, but said the families were grateful.

“This is exactly the message the families wanted to hear,” he said.

As the search continued, a Paraguayan official disclosed late Thursday that rescuers had found in the rubble the bodies of Sophia López Moreira, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady Silvana Abdo, and López Moreira’s husband Luis Pettengill and the youngest of their three children.

That South American nation’s foreign minister, Euclides Acevedo, told Paraguay’s ABC Cardinal radio station that the two other children and the family assistant are still missing.

“We ask people for their solidarity and a prayer,” he said. “In the face of a tragedy, Paraguayan people must show their traditional solidarity.”

During the day, the death toll rose to 64, with another 76 people unaccounted for, Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said earlier.

Levine Cava said teams paused briefly atop the pile to mark the two-week anniversary of the disaster, but there was no slowing down or slash in rescuers’ numbers at the site.

“We are working around the clock to recover victims and to bring closure to the families as fast as we possibly can,” she said.

“When that happened, it took a little piece of the hearts of this community,” said US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose congressional district includes Surfside.

Michael Stratton, whose wife, Cassie, has not officially been confirmed dead, said friends and family had accepted “the loss of a bright and kind soul with an adventurous spirit.”

He was talking on the phone with his wife right when the building collapsed, and she described shaking before the phone went dead, he said.

Schultz and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged financial assistance to families of the victims, as well as to residents of the building who survived but lost all their possessions.

In addition to property tax relief for residents of the building, DeSantis said, the state government will work toward channeling an outpouring of charitable donations to families affected by the collapse.

Cava said crews were also collecting and cataloguing numerous personal items, including legal documents, photo albums, jewelry, and electronic goods that they would seek to reunite families with.

The Rev. Juan Sosa of St. Joseph Catholic Church met with other spiritual leaders at the collapse site.