The remains of two children have been found in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in Florida, raising the death toll from the tragedy to 18, as the search for survivors enters its second week.
Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava described the loss of the sisters – Emma, four, and Lucia Guara, 10 – as “too great to bear”.
Ms Levine Cava said the disclosure came with “great sorrow, real pain”, adding: “Our community, our nation and the world all are mourning with these families who have lost loved ones.
“Any loss of life, especially given the unexpected, unprecedented nature of this event, is a tragedy.”
Their mother, 42-year-old Anaely Rodriguez, was also identified among the six bodies recovered on Wednesday from the ruins of Champlain Towers South in the town of Surfside. The remains of their father, Marcus Guara, 52, were discovered and identified a few days after the disaster.
It comes ahead of a visit today from President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, who will travel to Florida to meet the families of victims and the first responders involved in the search and rescue efforts.
No one has been found alive since a huge section of the 12-storey oceanfront building crashed to the ground around 1.30am local time last Thursday (6.30am UK time) as residents slept.
The number of residents unaccounted for stands at 145.
Officials still harbour hope of finding survivors, with Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett promising families that rescue crews were “not leaving anyone behind”.
“We’ve not gotten to the bottom. We don’t know what’s down there,” he said.
“We’re not going to guess. We’re not going to make a life-or-death decision to arbitrarily stop searching for people who may be alive in that rubble.”
Rescue teams including 200 specialists and trained sniffer dogs have been working around the clock in 12-hour shifts, with the support of hundreds more firefighters, police, engineers, environmental safety experts and others.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the collapse of the 40-year-old residential high-rise.
This week it emerged that the building crumbled just days before condo owners were due to start paying for repair works that had been commissioned three years earlier due to “major structural damage”.
Built in 1981, the tower block comprised more than 130 flats, about 80 of which were occupied.
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