(Reuters) -The confirmed death toll in the collapse of a Miami-area condominium tower increased to 78 on Friday after workers pulled the remains of an additional 14 people from the rubble of the building, an official said.
A total of 62 people remain missing and feared dead in the concrete and steel ruins of the 12-story tower, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference.
The number of missing could change as it remains possible that not all were in the building when it abruptly caved in and crumbled to the ground early on June 24.
“This is a staggering and heart-breaking number that affects all of us very deeply,” Levine Cava told a briefing.
The rising death toll followed the removal of 13 million pounds (589,6701 kg) of debris from the site, she said.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said that crews have whittled down the size of the building debris pile from four or five stories to nearly ground level, with some areas at below-ground level.
“So the progress that our search and rescue teams are making is really incredible,” Burkett said.
Investigators have not determined what caused the Champlain Towers South to fall apart without warning. Attention has been focused on a 2018 engineering report that warned of structural deficiencies.
(reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Editing by Franklin Paul and Aurora Ellis)