More bodies are found at collapsed condo, but rescuers have detected no signs of life
By Sophie Kasakove, Giulia Heyward and Heather Murphy
The grim and increasingly hopeless search amid the rubble of the collapsed condominium building in Surfside, Florida, continued Tuesday under windy, overcast skies after the demolition of the unstable remainder of the building over the holiday weekend allowed rescuers to access new parts of the structure.
The approach of Tropical Storm Elsa, whose strongest effects were expected to be felt in South Florida by midday Tuesday, complicated search efforts, forcing crews to pause their efforts for 30 minutes at some points because of lightning strikes near the site. The wind also hampered the cranes removing heavy debris, officials said.
Still, crews made progress, searching parts of the site that had been unreachable before the demolition Sunday night. They found eight more bodies Monday and Tuesday morning, bringing the confirmed death toll to 32. More than 100 residents remain missing in the wake of the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24.
“Through the rain and through the wind, they have continued searching,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County told reporters Tuesday morning.
“We know that waiting for news is unbearable,” she said of family members desperate for information about their loved ones. “The waiting, the waiting and the waiting is unbearable.”
Although emergency teams have now searched the upper layers of all of the collapse site, officials said they had not given up on the possibility of finding survivors. But the crews have not detected any signs of life while searching the building, Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t come across any,” Cominsky said.
Mayor Charles Burkett of Surfside said officials were responding to inquiries from large buildings in town regarding the collapse and advising them that they should undertake a full structural review of their systems. Officials were also examining Champlain Towers North, a sister site of the collapsed condo that was built by the same developer.
“We have deep concerns about that building, given that we don’t know what happened” at Champlain South, Burkett said. Some residents of Champlain North had taken authorities up on their offer of alternative housing, he said.
Officials said they were no closer to determining the cause of the collapse and remained focused on search efforts.
“The whole world wants to know what happened here,” Levine Cava acknowledged, but she would not provide a timeline for the investigation.
“As you all know, we were focused squarely on search and rescue while preserving all evidence,” she said, adding, “I look forward to learning the truth, as do we all.”
Despite earlier warnings that Elsa could bring tropical storm-force winds to the Miami area Tuesday, meteorologists revised their forecasts, saying that Surfside would likely be spared the worst of the storm.
Tornado warnings were issued for portions of Miami-Dade County late Monday, and heavy rain fell overnight. Forecasters predicted several inches of rain and winds of up to 29 mph in and around Miami on Tuesday, as Elsa made its way up Florida’s western coast.