Rescue workers found the body of a fifth person in the rubble of a 12-story condominium that partially collapsed Thursday, the mayor of Miami-Dade County in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida said Saturday.
The number of people who are unaccounted for is now 156, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, adding that other human remains were also found.
“Our top priority continues to be search and rescue and saving any lives that we can,” she said as workers continue to use rescue dogs and sonar to find survivors.
Earlier Saturday, Cava said a fire deep in the rubble was hampering efforts to find and rescue people.
“We’re facing very incredible difficulties with this fire. It’s a very deep fire,” she told reporters. “It’s extremely difficult to locate the source of the fire.”
Cava said rescue workers are using water, foam and infrared technology to extinguish the fire and that its source had not been determined.
The mayor of Surfside, the town in which the building is located, said Saturday he was working to temporarily relocate residents of a nearby condominium building that is nearly identical to the building that collapsed.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett also said he was trying to arrange an emergency inspection of the twin building, which also was constructed in 1981 by the same developer as the crumbled building.
The New York Times reported earlier Saturday that a 3-year-old engineer’s report on the partially collapsed building said it had “major structural damage” on the concrete slab below the pool deck.
In addition, the engineer observed “abundant” cracking and crumbling in the walls, beams and columns of the parking garage located under the building, according to the newspaper.
The report, the Times said, was the basis for “a multimillion-dollar repair project that was set to get underway soon.”
The newspaper said municipal officials released the engineer’s report late Friday.
The 2018 report did not give any evidence that the building was about to collapse but it did say “most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion.”
The Washington Post, citing a study conducted last year, reported the building was constructed on reclaimed wetlands on the barrier island that makes up the Miami Beach area and has been gradually sinking since the 1990s.
It is unclear if those factors contributed to the incident.
Rescue workers used heavy equipment Friday to search for survivors in the rubble of the collapsed building after officials said four people were confirmed dead and 159 people remain missing.
The rescuers in the Miami suburb of Surfside used cranes as well as their own hands to dig through debris.
Officials from the city of Miami and surrounding Dade County held a news briefing earlier Friday at the scene, just north of Miami.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Raide Jadallah said the entire building had been cleared and checked so rescue operations can focus on the rubble. He said 130 firefighters are working at the site.
Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said his office is working with the local medical examiner’s office to identify victims.
U.S. President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for the site, which will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts and supply additional funds.
“My heart is with the community of Surfside as they grieve their lost loved ones and wait anxiously as search and rescue efforts continue,” Biden tweeted.
The president spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday and said the federal government stands ready to provide additional resources if needed.
The Associated Press and the Reuters news service contributed to this report.