Miami condo collapse: First funerals held for victims, 12 days after disaster

Death toll from the collapse is 36 while 109 are still missing

Mayank Aggarwal
Wednesday 07 July 2021 10:30
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Artist paints mural to honor Surfside victims

The first funeral for Miami condo collapse victims — a tight-knit family who loved spending time together — was held nearly two weeks after last month’s disaster.

On 24 June the Champlain Towers South collapsed at Surfside in Miami, southern Florida. The confirmed death toll, so far, is 36 while 109 people, who may have been inside the building, are still considered missing.

On Tuesday, several hundred mourners gathered in a Miami Beach church at the first funeral for victims of the collapse.

Marcus Guara, 52, his wife Ana Guara, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, were remembered as a family who loved taking walks on the beach.

“Who would have thought a few weeks ago that our community had so many ties to one little building in one small corner of Florida called Surfside,” Marcus Guara’s cousin Peter Milián said in a eulogy for the family.

The images from the funeral showed that the attendees at the burial at St Joseph’s Catholic Church. The remains of the Guara family were found in search-and-rescue operations at the collapse site.

Hours after the funeral, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the updated death toll in a news conference. “I ask all of you around the world who continue to follow this story, please keep these victims in your hearts and prayers,” she said.

Meanwhile, search-and-rescue efforts continued after the managed demolition of the remaining part of Champlain Towers South complex even as Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescuers have not found any “liveable spaces” where survivors could have been spared.

Though local officials say they have not given up hope of finding survivors, no one has been discovered alive in the rubble since the first few hours after the collapse.

The search is continuing even as Elsa, which strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, was on track to make landfall on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning. But experts said that Surfside will likely be spared the worst of the storm.

The hurricane’s approach prompted local officials to demolish a still-standing section of the 12-story tower on Sunday night over worries that high winds could knock it down. On Tuesday, the lightning brought on by Elsa had forced rescue teams to halt their operation for some time.

Since the collapse, more than five million pounds of debris has been removed from the site. So far, the investigators have not been able to establish what caused the collapse but they are focusing on a 2018 engineering report that warned of structural deficiencies.

The disaster has also forced officials across South Florida to study residential buildings for signs of poor construction or structural weaknesses.

Additional reporting by agencies

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