Rescue workers have given up hope of finding survivors in the rubble of the bombed federal building, and machinery will be brought in soon to look for the remains of the missing, Gov. Frank Keating said Sunday.
Keating said the danger of the building collapsing has grown so great in the 11 days since the explosion that it no longer is possible for rescuers to risk the search. Workers had been tunneling carefully through the debris in the hope of finding survivors.
“The decision’s been made to use machinery. How soon could that be? It could be in the next day or so,” he said after a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Administration officials and local firefighters.
“You reach a point where you don’t jeopardize human beings in order to extract the dead,” he said.
Keating also said it is likely as many as 20 bodies may never be recovered, even with the use of machinery.
Earlier Sunday, rescuers had crept gingerly through the federal building as engineers tried to reinforce weakened columns that threatened to collapse around them.
The death toll rose to 134 as more bodies were removed. Sixty-two people still are missing, including eight children.
Six people were added to the list of missing Sunday after a Tulsa, Okla., woman reported her relatives may have been trapped in the building. Authorities now believe the six may have been located, although they refused to elaborate.
In the ruins of the building, workers shored up two columns at the front of the structure that were in danger of collapsing. They built 5-foot-tall steel boxes around the base of the columns and filled them with grout.
Structural engineers have been accompanying search teams, advising which directions are safe to tunnel and where strengthening is needed, said Maj. Pat Caraway of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
They use equipment that can detect as little as an eighth of an inch of shifting in the building’s load-bearing columns and exterior walls.
Structural engineers were examining various parts of the building, with as many as six visible on the roof at one time.
Workers reported seeing bodies behind the two columns in an area known as “the pit,” where nine floors collapsed into a heap of rubble that includes the ruins of a day care center and Social Security offices.
The remains of many of the missing are believed to be in that area.