By Francisco Alvarado
SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) – Mourners flocked to a Miami Beach church Tuesday to commemorate the lives of two young children and their parents at the first funeral for victims of the condo building collapse nearly two weeks ago.
Three black Cadillac hearses brought the bodies of Marcus Guara, 52, his wife Ana Guara, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, to St. Joseph Catholic Church.
The pallbearers brought two white caskets and a blue casket to the church. The two children were placed together in one of the white coffins at the request of the family.
The family passed away when approximately half of the 12-story Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida collapsed in the early hours of June 24.
They are among 32 confirmed dead from the disaster, according to updated figures released by officials Tuesday. Some 113 people are still missing as rescue teams battle the strong winds of the approaching Tropical Storm Elsa. Authorities have yet to determine what caused the 40-year-old building to collapse.
Marcus Guara had just started a new job in November as a sales manager for a towel and bedding manufacturer and often raised funds for charities, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to his Facebook account (NASDAQ :).
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said in a briefing that Elsa’s strong winds as the storm approaches from the south have made it difficult for emergency workers to do so.
“The wind is making it harder for the big cranes to move very heavy debris,” Burkett said, adding that he met with a family who was waiting for rescuers to find his daughter, a recent law school graduate who married in January, and his son-in-law.
Experts and officials have warned that the probability of finding survivors was remote given the time that has elapsed.
Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescuers have found no “habitable spaces.” He said workers had removed more than 124 tons, or 5 million pounds, of debris to date.
Forecasters predicted that the area will be spared the worst of the storm. Still, concern over Elsa’s impact led officials to order the demolition of half the building that had remained standing, which took place Sunday night.
A 2018 engineering report found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of investigations including a grand jury examination.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava warned that it could take some time to find the root cause.
“The whole world wants to know what happened here,” Cava said at the briefing. “I hope I know the truth.”
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