Florida building collapse: First funerals held for Surfside victims

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  • Miami building collapse

image copyrightAFPimage captionMourners gathered to say goodbye to the Guara family in Surfside

The first funerals have been held for victims of the Florida building collapse, 12 days after the disaster.

The Guara family – Marcus, 52, Ana, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, four – are among 32 people now known to have died when Champlain Towers South collapsed on 24 June.

More than 110 people are still missing, with 70 confirmed to have been inside.

Rescue efforts are continuing, but no one has been found alive since the first morning.

The teams are still carefully sorting through the wreckage of the 12-storey building in Surfside, just north of Miami, even as experts warn the chance of finding survivors is now slim.

Tuesday's funerals took place just a few blocks away at St Joseph's, the Catholic church where the Guaras had worshipped.

Three coffins were carried into the church. The family decided to bury the sisters together, in a coffin decorated with pink and purple ribbons. They are among the youngest known victims of the collapse.

image copyrightReutersimage captionSisters Lucia, 10, and Emma, four, were placed in a coffin together at their family's request

The family had lived on the eighth floor. Marcus Guara – a sales manager who raised money for a number of charities – was found first, two days after the collapse. Ana Guara and their two girls were found four days later.

Mr Guara's cousin Peter Milián, speaking in the church, said he took comfort from the fact the couple had died with their children.

"As ironic as it may sound I truly believe God watched over them by not making them suffer without Lucia and Emma," he said.

Annette Guara Hurst, Mr Guara's sister, told WSVN in an interview a few days earlier that the family were relieved all four had been found as "not too many people have had that blessing".

media captionMiami building collapse: "People went to sleep, and then they died"

So far, rescuers have removed more than 124 tons (five million pounds) of debris from the site, according to Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky. But they had not found any "liveable spaces".

"Unfortunately, we are not seeing anything positive," he told a press conference on Tuesday.

Rescue efforts are now being further slowed by high winds from Storm Elsa, which is approaching from the south.

"The wind is hampering the large cranes moving very heavy debris," Surfside Mayor Charles Burket told reporters.

Meanwhile, officials are investigating other tower blocks in the area for potential structural faults.

What caused the 40-year-old Champlain Towers South to crumble remains unclear. A 2018 inspection, however, warned of "major" flaws in the original design.

The building association's board has said it will appoint an "independent receiver… to oversee the legal and claims process".

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