Victims and families who suffered losses in the collapse of a 12-storey condominium in Miami will get a minimum of 150 million dollars (£109.5 million) in initial compensation, a Florida judge has said.
That sum includes about 50 million (£36.5 million) in insurance on the Champlain Towers South building and at least 100 million (£73 million) in proceeds from the sale of the Surfside property where the structure once stood, Miami-Dade circuit judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing.
“The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” the judge said, adding that the group includes visitors and renters, not just condo owners. “Their rights will be protected.”
The 150 million does not count any proceeds from the numerous lawsuits already filed since the June 24 collapse, which killed at least 97 people.
A worker waits to load his truck with debris from the rubble of the Champlain Towers South building (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Those lawsuits are being consolidated into a single class action that would cover all victims and family members if they choose, the judge said.
Mr Hanzman said: “I have no doubt, no stone will be left unturned.”
So far 96 victims have been identified, many of them using DNA analysis.
Miami Dade officials said on Wednesday evening they believe they have two more victims yet to identify. Officials have not yet announced an end to the recovery effort.
Meanwhile, the site of the tragedy has mostly been cleared away with the debris relocated to an evidentiary collection site near the airport where a thorough search will continue “with enormous care and diligence”, said mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
She added: “The enormous pressure of the weight of the collapse and the passage of time also make it more challenging.”
On Wednesday, 24-year-old Anastasia Gromova was identified, according to her family and police.
The young Canadian had just been accepted to a program teaching English in Japan and was visiting the condo for one last hurrah with friend Michelle Pazos.
Women light candles in front of a makeshift memorial (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)
Ms Gromova’s body was recovered three days ago and was one of the last to be identified.
Her grieving family rushed from Canada after the collapse and had spent weeks in agony waiting in Miami.
Her sister Anna Gromova told The Associated Press: “It just makes it real and hard but on a different level. At least we can move on now.”
The rubble that will be key evidence is being stored in a Miami-area warehouse, with the rest in nearby vacant lots, said the receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg.
All of that will be preserved as possible evidence for the lawsuits and for other experts to review, he said.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is leading a federal probe into the collapse, according to a receiver handling the finances on behalf of the condominium board.
The building was just undergoing its 40-year recertification process when it collapsed. That came three years after an engineer warned of serious structural issues needing immediate attention. Most of the concrete repair and other work had yet to be started.
There remain differences of opinion among condo owners about what to do with the site. Some want the entire condo rebuilt so they can move back in. Others say it should be left as a memorial site to honour those who died. A third suggestion is to combine both.