Surfside building collapse
Surfside building collapseReuters

A judge on Wednesday ruled that families who suffered losses in the 12-story collapse of a South Florida condominium building will receive at least $150 million in initial compensation, Fox News reports.

The figure includes insurance on the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside. Expected proceeds from the sale of where the property once stood is also included.

"The court’s concern has always been the victims here," Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing, stressing, "Their rights will be protected."

The figure does not count toward any proceeds from any of the numerous lawsuits filed since the June 24 collapse. Those lawsuits have consolidated into a class action. As of Wednesday, at least 97 people have died.

A receiver appointed by Hanzman to handle the Champlain Towers board's finances said the site has been completely cleared of debris under the watchful eye of investigators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the agency leading a federal probe into the collapse.

Rubble considered 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.

"It may take years for their report to become public," Goldberg said of the NIST probe.

The building was undergoing its 40-year recertification process when it collapsed. The disaster came three years after engineers warned of serious structural issues that needed immediate attention.

A sale of the site could fetch upwards of $110 million, according to court records.

Hanzman noted that residents and families of the victims need to rebuild their lives.

"This is not a case where we have time to let grass grow underneath it," he said, according to Fox News.