4 more victims found in rubble of collapsed Florida condo, pushing death toll to 32
The discovery of four more victims in the rubble of the collapsed Florida condo building raised the death toll to 32, a fire official said Tuesday, as a ramped-up search effort faced new threats from severe weather from an approaching tropical storm.
Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah announced the new death count to family members during a closed-door morning briefing Tuesday, according to video posted on social media. He said rescuers were finding more human remains.
Jadallah said there was a two-hour delay to the search early Tuesday as a result of lightning. He said workers have removed 5.5 million pounds of debris from the pile.
Many are feared dead and trapped in the rubble after the collapse of part of a 12-story beachfront condo tower in the Miami suburb of Surfside.
At the site of the collapsed building Tuesday morning, power saws and backhoes could be heard as workers in yellow helmets and blue jumpsuits sifted through the rubble for a 13th day. Stiff winds of 20 mph, with stronger gusts at times, blew through the area as gray clouds from Tropical Storm Elsa’s outer bands swirled above.
Rain was expected in Surfside as Elsa strengthened with potential to become a hurricane again before making landfall between Tampa Bay and Florida’s Big Bend and crossing northern Florida. The storm is expected mostly to bypass the collapse site.
The search crews can work through rain, but lightning from unrelated thunderstorms has forced them to pause at times, and a garage area in the rubble has filled with water, officials said.
The legal fallout from the deadly condo tower collapse in Surfside, Fla., is already underway as lawsuits look to find answers and assign blame.
The delays frustrated rescue crews, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
“Truly they live to save lives, and they’ve pushed ahead no matter what is thrown in their way,” she said at a Monday evening news conference.
Crews got a boost when the unstable remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South building came down Sunday. The demolition — prompted by fears that the structure could fall — allowed rescuers into previously inaccessible places, including bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping at the time of the disaster, officials said.
“The site is busier and more active now than I’ve seen it since we began, now that the damaged building is down,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, adding that heavy equipment was now able to move freely around the site.
From sinkholes to concrete-weakening saltwater intrusion, theories abound on what caused a Florida beachside condo tower to collapse with no warning.
Rescuers had hoped to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble as they search for anyone still trapped under the fallen wing of the building, but they found very few voids, Jadallah told family members late Monday.
No one has been found alive since the first hours after the collapse, but rescuers were still holding out hope of reuniting loved ones.
“We continue to remain focused on our primary mission, and that is to leave no stone unturned and to find as many people as we can and to help bring either some answers to family and loved ones or to bring some closure to them,” City of Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said.
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