Florida condo collapse: Death toll rises to 28 after another victim found in rubble


As many as 117 people remain unaccounted for currently.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says another victim has been found in the rubble of a collapsed condo building in Florida, bringing the death toll in the tragedy to 28. Another 117 people remain unaccounted for.

Earlier on Monday, officials said three more victims had been found in a new area of rubble to which they gained access after demolishing the remaining part of the building.

The demolition late on Sunday was crucial to the search-and-rescue effort, officials said, and raised the prospect that crews could increase both the pace of their work and the number of searchers at the site, although the chance of finding survivors 12 days after the June 24 collapse has diminished.

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members on Monday afternoon that few voids had been found in the new section of rubble, and that intemperate weather brought by Tropical Storm Elsa was hampering search efforts.

Rescuers searched through fresh rubble on Monday after the last of the collapsed Florida condo building was demolished, which allowed crews into previously inaccessible places, including bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping at the time of the disaster, officials said.

But they faced a new challenge from thunderstorms that hit the area as Tropical Storm Elsa approached the state.

Three more victims were discovered in the new pile, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members, raising the death toll to 27 people. Another 118 people remain unaccounted for.

“We know that with every day that goes by, it is harder to see a miracle happening,” said Maggie Castro, a firefighter and paramedic with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue who briefs families daily.

Teams had been unable to access areas closest to the remaining structure because of its instability, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

“Truly we could not continue without bringing this building down,” she said at a news conference.

Part of the existing debris pile was also helping to support the remaining structure, City of Miami Fire Rescue Capt Ignatius Carroll said. 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,” Mr. Carroll said.

The newly accessible area includes master bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping when the building collapsed, Florida Gov Ron DeSantis said.

“We will be able to access every part of that pile, which they hadn’t been able to do up to this point,” Mr. DeSantis said. “I think it’s going to move the pace. I think the momentum is very strong.”

Crews could be seen climbing a mound of debris at the site on Monday alongside a piece of heavy equipment that was picking up rubble. Mr. Jadallah said rescuers focused on a stairwell section, but inclement weather hampered the search, particularly in a garage area that was filling with water. Crews had to pump out water.

The latest forecasts showed the storm moving westward, mostly sparing South Florida, but the area near the collapsed building experienced thunderstorms, and the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Miami Beach, which is just south of Surfside.

Mr. Jadallah said rescuers planned to push through.

“Now that we don’t have an issue with the building, the only time that we’re stopping is lightning,” he said.

Workers immediately began clearing some of the new debris after the demolition, and the search resumed around midnight, officials said. It had been called off on Saturday to allow specialists to drill holes for explosives needed for the demolition.

“As a result of the contractor who brought it down, he did it in such a way that literally we actually were back on the original pile in less than 20 minutes,” Mr. Jadallah told family members of those missing earlier on Monday, drawing applause in a rare upbeat moment for the twice-daily meetings.

Rescuers hoped to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble as they search for those believed to be trapped under the fallen wing of the Champlain Towers South. Crews, however, have found very few voids, Mr. Jadallah said.

No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse.

During the demolition, a loud rat-a-tat of explosions echoed from the structure. Then the building began to fall, one floor after another, cascading into an explosion of dust. Plumes billowed into the air as crowds watched the scene from afar.

Some residents had pleaded to return to their homes one last time before the demolition to retrieve belongings, but they were denied. Others wondered about the pets left behind. Officials said they found no signs of animals after making three final sweeps, including the use of drones to peer into the abandoned structure.

Levine Cava said teams are working to save personal items and have asked residents to catalog what they’re missing to match with items as soon as they are recovered.

“The world is mourning for those who lost their loved ones and for those who are waiting for news from the collapse,” she said at the news conference. “To lose your home and all your belongings in this manner is a great loss as well.”

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