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Miami rescue effort threatened by tropical storm as death roll climbs to 32

Miami rescue effort threatened by tropical storm as death roll climbs to 32

A ramped-up rescue effort at the collapsed condo building in Surfside near Miami faced new threats from the weather as Tropical Storm Elsa began lashing Florida on Tuesday, on a path that would mostly spare the south of the state.

Four more victims were discovered overnight, raising the death toll to 32. Twenty-six have been identified, officials said. Another 113 people remained unaccounted for.

Bands of heavy rain were expected in Surfside, where the building collapsed on 24 June, as Elsa strengthened. The storm could become a hurricane again before making landfall between Tampa Bay and Big Bend and crossing northern Florida, forecasters said.

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. Surfside mayor Charles Burkett said a press briefing on Tuesday morning that winds have been hampering large cranes that are moving heavy debris.

“These teams continue through extremely adverse and challenging conditions, through the rain and through the wind,” said the Miami-Dade mayor, Daniella Levine Cava. Occasional gusts and strong showers are expected today from Elsa, she added.

Crews got a big boost when the unstable remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South building came down on 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,” Burkett said on Monday night, adding that heavy equipment was now able to move freely around the site.

Levine Cava said on Tuesday cooling stations and a Royal Caribbean ship docked nearby were available to provide respite to rescue crew members who are working 12 to 18 hours a day.

Rescuers 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 found very few voids, the Miami-Dade assistant fire chief, Raide Jadallah, told family members late on Monday.

No one has been rescued 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,” a Miami fire rescue captain, Ignatius Carroll, said.

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