Rescue teams at the site of a Miami building collapse shifted to a recovery effort on Wednesday evening after authorities said there was "no chance of life".
“We have all asked God for a miracle, so the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference.
A somber moment of silence marked the end of the two-week search for survivors of a Florida condominium collapse, as rescue workers stood at solemn attention and clergy members hugged a line of local officials while many of them sobbed.
The death toll stood at 54 late Wednesday. Officials said 86 people were unaccounted for, although detectives were still working to verify that each of those listed as missing was actually in the building when it collapsed.
Officials vowed to continue the recovery efforts until they find the remains of every one of the missing.
Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told families during a private briefing that crews would stop using rescue dogs and listening devices.
“Our sole responsibility at this point is to bring closure,” he said, as relatives cried in the background.
Later, during a news conference, Jadallah said crews remained committed to doing whatever it takes to finish the job.
"The resources are still there. The men and women are still there. The support is still there," said Jadallah, who began crying silently after he spoke.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said he expects the recovery effort will take several more weeks.
Hope of finding survivors was briefly rekindled after workers demolished the remainder of the building, allowing rescuers access to new areas of debris.
Some of those voids did exist, mostly in the basement and the parking garage, but no survivors emerged. Instead, teams recovered more than a dozen additional victims. Because the building fell in the early morning hours, many were found dead in their beds.
No one has been pulled out alive since the first hours after the 12-story building fell on June 24.
Twice during the search operation, rescuers had to suspend the mission because of the instability of the remaining part of the condominium building and the preparation for demolition.
After initially hoping for miraculous rescues, families had slowly braced themselves for the news that their relatives did not survive.
“For some, what they’re telling us, it’s almost a sense of relief when they already know (that someone has died) and they can just start to put an end to that chapter and start to move on,” said Miami-Dade firefighter and paramedic Maggie Castro, who has updated families daily.
Authorities are launching a grand jury investigation into the collapse and at least six lawsuits have been filed by Champlain Towers families.