Nearly four weeks ago, search and rescue teams faced a mountain of twisted concrete and metal rubble as they attempted to locate the victims of the Surfside condo building collapse.
Now, footage from the scene shows an empty space where hundreds of people once lived.
More than 22 million pounds of debris has been removed from the site since the Champlain South Towers partially collapsed on June 24 while many residents were sleeping.
Since then, 97 bodies have been recovered and 95 have been identified.
State Senator Jason Pizzo shared new photos of the South Champlain Towers collapse site on Tuesday.
Even as time passed and the possibility of locating survivors diminished, ground crews remained dedicated to the arduous task of combing through the rubble, stopping only for dangerous weather conditions and when the remains of the building were demolished.
Authorities have promised the families that the search will not end until all loved ones are located.
“At the original collapse site, we’re almost at the bottom,” Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta told CNN. “Does that mean we’re almost done with the search?” No. Until we clear the whole site and find more human remains, we’re not done.
There are only a handful of concrete stumps scattered around the footprint of the building.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
The scene of the collapse site at Surfside on June 28, 2021.
Once the research is officially completed, an investigation into the causes of the collapse can begin, experts said.
“Until they do their job, we can’t come in to take material samples and take those samples and test them to understand what the different building components were that fell,” the engineer said. in structure Allyn Kilsheimer to Ana Cabrera of CNN.
The first night he was at the scene, Kilsheimer, who also investigated the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, said he had about 20 or 30 theories of possible triggers.
Since then he has eliminated some but added five or six more, he said, but will not be able to reduce it while research continues.
Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle acknowledged “multiple requests from engineers and lawyers” to access the site.
“Engineers from the federal agency National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were deployed to Surfside with the authority of Congress to gather evidence and determine how and why Champlain’s South Tower collapsed. NIST is the investigative agency responsible for investigating collapses of buildings such as the World Trade Center, just as the NTSB investigates plane crashes, ”Rundle said in a statement.
“I understand that once NIST, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Services, and Miami-Dade Police Departments determine that it is safe and appropriate for others to access the site, they will be authorized to do so in accordance with guidelines established by them. agencies, ”Rundle said.
Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images
Cranes operate on the remains of the collapsed 12-story condo at Tours Champlain South on July 9, 2021.
Many families now have answers to questions about the fate of their loved ones, marking a new chapter in their mourning.
In the days following the collapse, Debbie Hill’s father was considered missing, and not knowing where he was and what had happened to him was “the big deal,” she told Erin Burnett from CNN.
Nicole Ortiz said the agony of waiting to hear of her sister and nephew’s fate was indescribable.
“I screamed,” she told CNN’s Ryan Young. “I almost passed out. I cried.
Sergio Lozano faces the loss of his two parents, Antonio and Gladys.
“They died together,” Lozano said. “It’s not fair – to be crushed, to be destroyed. It is not fair.”
The judge overseeing civil suits in the collapse said survivors and families of the victims will not be asked to donate their real estate for the public good.
In a status hearing on Wednesday, 11th Judicial Circuit Court judge Michael Hanzman said he was not immune to comments suggesting the site should be turned into a memorial.
But, said Hanzman, the concern of the court is for victims to tell lawyers at the hearing, “Regardless of the perspective of some people who are not victims, the task of this court and your task is to compensate the victims of this tragedy, period “.
Justice Hanzman said his job is to make sure victims get what they are legally entitled to.
“Those victims who have lost their homes, their belongings and, in many cases, their lives are not going to sacrifice the value of their property for the public good.”
CNN’s Travis Caldwell, Rosa Flores, Rebekah Riess, Leyla Santiago, Claudia Dominguez, and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.