At least four Canadians from three different families are unaccounted for after the deadly collapse of a Miami-area condo building, the federal government said Sunday as the official death toll in the incident rose to nine.
Global Affairs Canada had said earlier on Sunday that four Canadians affected by the tragedy were from two families, but clarified the facts later in the day. The department had also previously declined to share the Canadians' official status, but now say they are among the roughly 150 still missing days after the Champlain Towers South came crashing down three days ago in Surfside, Fla.
It said the information about the four Canadians comes from "preliminary reports."
"Canadian consular officials in Miami are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information," Ciara Trudeau, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs wrote in an email. "Canadian consular officials are also in contact with the affected families."
Global Affairs Canada offered no additional details, citing the privacy act.
The news came as rescue efforts continued at the wreckage of the 12-story tower north of Miami. Authorities and loved ones expressed fears that the death toll, which climbed after more bodies were discovered on Sunday, could rise much higher.
"We were able to recover four additional bodies in the rubble as well as additional human remains," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a morning press conference. "As of today, one victim passed away in the hospital, and we've recovered eight ... victims on site."
The remains are being sent to the medical examiner, and authorities are gathering DNA samples from family members to aid in identification.
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said his department is continuing to conduct a search and rescue operation and has no plans to give up the search for survivors.
"Hope, that's what I'm focusing on," he said.
Cominsky said rescue teams are searching aggressively, but the search remains a slow process.
"What we're encountering here is a very extreme, challenging situation, this type of collapse is difficult," he said.
Days after Thursday's collapse, 156 people remain unaccounted for.
Dogs, cameras and sonar are being used in the search through piles of rubble, Cava said.
The additional bodies were found as workers dug a large trench in the wreckage, she said. The trench is more than 12 metres deep, six metres wide and 38 metres long.
Teams from Mexico and Israel have been brought in to support the rescue operation.
Three years ago, an engineering firm said the building needed major repairs to fix damaged concrete in columns, beams and walls.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said rescue and recovery operations are the first priority, followed by helping the survivors.
"Then, the next most important thing is why did this happen?" he said Sunday. "I do think it's important that we get a definitive explanation."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2021.
— With files from The Associated Press
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press