The body of a Miami firefighter’s seven-year-old daughter has been recovered from the site of a Florida building collapse by the search and rescue team he had been assisting.
Key points:

  • No-one has been found alive in the wreckage of the building since the initial hours after its collapse
  • The first hurricane of the 2021 season could near Florida early next week
  • A cruise ship has been docked in Miami to accommodate 600 emergency services personnel

The child was one of two victims found in the rubble of Champlain Towers South a week after the building partially collapsed. 
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the death has increased to 22, with 126 people still missing and feared buried beneath tons of pulverised concrete, twisted metal and splintered lumber as the search stretched into its ninth day.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez confirmed to the Miami Herald the firefighter, who was not identified, was at the recovery site at the time, though he was not one of the workers digging through the rubble.
The firefighter and his brother, also a firefighter, have kept a vigil at the site since last week, waiting until the girl was discovered, the paper reported.
About 200 officers saluted as her body was carried away, the Herald said, citing unnamed sources.
Officials said the discovery was especially emotional for many of the first responders who have mounted an unprecedented around-the-clock effort to search for survivors, even as the odds have grown longer with each passing day.
“Every victim we remove is very difficult,” said Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky.
“Last night was even more, when we were removing a fellow firefighter’s daughter. As firefighters, we do what we do it’s kind of a calling. But it still takes a toll.”
Firefighter had been searching for missing daughter
The US President visited the site on Thursday.(AP: Gerald Herbert
The Miami Fire Department is part of Task Force 2, which has been assisting in the search since the collapse.
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The firefighter voluntarily joined the search, officials said, hoping he could help find his daughter and others still missing in the wreckage.
“It goes without saying that every night since this last Thursday has been immensely difficult, particularly for the families that have been impacted,” Ms Levine Cava said.
“Last night was uniquely difficult. It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders. These men and women are paying an enormous human toll each and every day and I ask that all of you please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.”
On Thursday local time, President Joe Biden visited the area to offer profuse thanks to those who have worked around the clock since the collapse.
“What you’re doing here is incredible, having to deal with the uncertainty,” Mr Biden said.
Search continues as hurricane nears Florida
Another building was being constructed next door the 12-storey oceanfront apartment block.(ABC
No-one has been pulled alive from the debris since the initial hours after the 12-floor Champlain Towers South condo partially caved in on itself early on June 24 as residents slept.
Authorities had halted the rescue and recovery effort early on Thursday (local time) after they detected movement that raised concerns a section of the high-rise tower still standing might topple onto search crews in the debris field.
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But the operation was restarted about 15 hours later when it was deemed safe, though with a new set of precautions in place, Mr Cominsky said.
Under the new search plan, teams would confine their work for now to just three of nine grids demarcated in the ruins, Mr Cominsky said.
Ms Levine Cava has signed an emergency order to demolish the remaining part of the building once engineers have signed off on it.
She said the order was signed now so that the demolition can move quickly once a date is set.
Authorities were eager to make as much progress as possible before the expected arrival of Elsa, which strengthened into the first hurricane of the 2021 season as it threatened the Caribbean.
The storm could be near South Florida by Monday or Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Molleda told reporters, with tropical storm-force winds arriving as early as Sunday.
But he warned that Elsa’s forecasted path remains uncertain.
Emergency services to stay on cruise ship
Structural deficiencies identified in a 2018 engineering report are being examined in various inquiries.(AP: Mark Humphrey
With housing options dwindling, a cruise ship will host hundreds of rescuers pouring into Florida from across the country.
Royal Caribbean cruise lines said it will host about 600 first responders on board its Explorer of the Seas ship, which can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers
They are expected to stay there for the next month.
The company said it would provide individual staterooms, hot meals, laundry service and Wi-Fi to its guests.
Juan Kuryla, the port director, told the Miami Herald on Friday that the ship now docked at PortMiami was brought in specifically to provide lodging for rescuers as hotels and other accommodations in the area fill up because of the July 4 holiday weekend.
Mr Kuryla was worried Hurricane Elsa could complicate things should it veer closer to Florida and said the ship may have to leave port if the threat becomes more serious.
During a Friday morning briefing, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah warned relatives of the missing that the search could be suspended again if the hurricane brings forecast strong winds that would make work too dangerous.
Survivors file lawsuit against building’s association
Investigators have not determined what caused the 40-year-old building to crumble into a heap in one of the deadliest building collapses in US history.
But a 2018 engineering report prepared by an engineering firm ahead of a building safety-recertification process found structural deficiencies in the condo complex that are now the focus of various inquiries, including a grand jury examination.
As recently as April, the building’s association president warned residents in a letter that major concrete damage identified by the engineer around the base of the building had grown “significantly worse.”
Several lawsuits have already been filed on behalf of survivors and victims against the association’s board.
In a statement on Friday, the board some of whose members remain missing said it would appoint an “independent receiver to oversee the legal and claims process”.
The board added that it would continue working with investigators to understand the cause of the tragedy.
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