It has been nearly two weeks since a high-rise condominium partially collapsed just north of Miami, killing potentially hundreds of people.
The key word there is potentially. Or, that was the key word until today, when officials made the somber decision to reclassify their efforts.
Florida officials have shifted gears at the Surfside high-rise collapse site from search and rescue to recovery Wednesday – meaning that they don’t expect to find additional survivors.
The search for victims of the collapse of a Miami-area high-rise condominium had reached its 14th day, and officials earlier announced they had recovered 18 more bodies from the rubble, bringing the death toll to at least 54, and said 86 people were still unaccounted for.
The decision to end the rescue effort came after crews completed a search of the last area where they expected to find “voids,” or pockets of debris large enough to possibly contain survivors.
Authorities hoped that the decision would allow some families to move on.
Speaking to families of the victims who remain unaccounted for, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said search teams would stop using rescue dogs and sonar devices meant to find survivors and instead dig through the rubble in search of human remains.
“Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” he told them, according to the Associated Press.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed the news publicly at a news briefing early Wednesday evening and said the official transition would take place at midnight.
“At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search and rescue mission,” she said.
Rescue workers did provide the tiniest bit of consolation, however, stating that a vast majority of bodies recovered papers to be asleep in their beds at the time of collapse.