Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 83 of those found have been identified while 22 people are still missing.

A woman walks past a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, on Monday, July 12, 2021, in Surfside, Florida.
A woman walks past a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, on Monday, July 12, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. (AP)

The death toll in the Miami-area condominium collapse has climbed to 94 as officials planned to step up security at the site to make sure the personal possessions of the victims are preserved for their families.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said on Monday that 22 people remain unaccounted for in the June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South, an oceanside condo building in Surfside. 

Levine Cava said 83 of the victims have been identified but "the process of making identifications has been made more difficult as time goes on.”

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said officials have decided to increase security around the debris pile to ensure that the site is preserved.
Only authorised personnel will be allowed.

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'Much more than a collapsed building site'

“It's obvious that this has become much more than a collapsed building site,” Mayor Burkett said. “It has become a holy site.”

Miami-Dade Police Department Director Alfredo Ramirez III said there has been “no criminality” at the site, but officials want to make sure the area is secure so crews can continue to preserve personal items found in the rubble.

“As families are being notified about their family members, the ask is always about property. People want some sort of connection to their family member, so it’s very important that our process that we have in place continues to flow uninterrupted," Ramirez said during a morning news conference.

“It’s just part of the process. This is a long, painful, hurtful process,” he said.

Burkett said work crews recently found a business card for an artist and then found several paintings they carefully pulled out of the debris pile to preserve for family members.

Levine Cava also addressed the announcement on Sunday that a vaccinated Miami-Dade county commissioner who helped other local officials in Surfside has tested positive for Covid-19.

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Investigations underway

Multiple investigations are underway to determine the cause of the sudden collapse, though preliminary findings show the building's structure appeared degraded in spots.

A 2018 report released by city officials revealed fears of "major structural damage" in the complex, from the concrete slab under the pool deck to columns and beams in the parking garage.

The rest of the building was brought down in a controlled explosion on July 4 to allow for the recovery operation to continue.

Recovery workers were making "great progress" in sifting through the tons of remaining concrete and other debris left at the site, Levine Cava said on Monday, declining to give a specific timeline for the operation's completion.

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Source: AP