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Final victim identified in the Surfside condo collapse

One month after the tragic building collapse on the Floridian coast, authorities have confirmed that they have found the remains of all 98 people believed to have died.

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Final victim identified in the Surfside condo collapse
GIORGIO VIERA AFP

On Monday a relative confirmed that he had been contacted by authorities who had identified the final victim of the Florida condominium building collapse which took the lives of 98 people last month.

The brother of Estelle Hedaya confirmed to Associated Press that the 54-year-old’s remains had been identified by officials carrying out the recovery on the Surfside condo. Her brother, Ikey, had previously travelled to Florida twice to offer a DNA sample to help identify his sister and prayed near to the site.

Authorities have since confirmed that the relatives of all 98 who died in the horrific incident have now been informed. The 24 June collapse is one of the deadliest structural building failures recorded in the United States and it garnered a bigger emergency response than any non-hurricane incident in Florida’s history.

Surfside search and rescue effort ended last week

After nearly a month the search for bodies at the site was concluded last Friday, although officers are continuing an ongoing effort to search for evidence, victims’ remains and personal items amongst the rubble. It is thought that the final remains were found on 20 July, but it took time for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department to identify Hedaya.

From this point on the secondary searches will continue as officials seek to ensure that there were no additional victims not currently accounted for. They will also continue to search for and collect personal items but there is not yet an estimated date for when they will be returned to the families.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County told reporters gathered: “Nothing we can say or do will bring back these 98 angels, who left behind grieving families, beloved friends, loved ones across this community and across the world… But we have done everything possible to bring closure to the families.”

What next for the Florida collapse site?

Now that authorities have officially ended the search and rescue mission at the Surfside condo there are efforts underway to provide some sort of compensation for those who lost loved ones or their homes in the collapse.

The condominium building was situation on some very valuable beachfront real estate and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman has appointed attorney Michael Goldberg to explore the land’s potential value. The site has already largely been cleared but a swift turnaround seems unlikely.

A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has estimated that the site could be worth as much as $110 million, and Hanzman has already said that the proceeds from the sale would go directly to the survivors and the families of the victims.

However that idea has not gone down well with all involved and some victims’ families have accused the local authorities of disrespecting those who died in the tragedy. Soriya Cohen, whose husband, Brad Cohen, was one of those who lost their lives told CNN: "I can't even imagine such a desecration. Imagine if that was your spouse, your parent or your grandparent and to make money, they built on top of it.”

She added: "I'm asking people to respect that and respect the families and the people who have already suffered so much and not to add to our pain."