By Brad Brooks
SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) - The confirmed death toll in the collapse of a Miami-area condominium tower rose to 64 on Thursday after crews recovered the remains of 10 more people from the concrete and steel ruins of the building.
A total of 76 people remain missing and feared dead in the mountain of rubble, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference, one day after local officials said no hope remained of finding survivors.
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.
Although local officials said that as of midnight EDT (0400 GMT) on Thursday the search and rescue part of the operation was considered over, the digging would continue until they had accounted for everyone believed to have been inside that morning.
"It was moving today to hear from a representative of the Miami Dade Fire Department, who said that they will not stop until they've gotten to the bottom of the pile and recovered every victim," Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told an afternoon news conference.
"Yesterday was tough," Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said earlier in the day, referring to the shift to recovery mode. "But the work is going to go on and they are going to identify every single person."
The pace at which crews were finding the dead has accelerated since teams demolished a still-standing section of the building over the weekend, allowing greater access inside the ruins and more use of heavy equipment.
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.
Burkett said investigators were comparing samples from the debris of the Champlain Towers South with its sister building Champlain Towers North, which was built at the same time and by the same developers, to look for evidence of structural weakness.
"We're just gearing up," he said. "It might be in the next three or four weeks and we'll have more information."
The disaster prompted officials across South Florida to study similar buildings for signs of structural compromise or damage.
Residents of a North Miami Beach condominium, Crestview Towers, were told to leave after engineers found serious concrete and electrical problems. They have not been allowed to return as city officials try to determine if the building can be stabilized.
(Reporting Brad Brooks in Surfside, Florida, Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Howard Goller, Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)