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Surfside Condo Collapse: Search Crews Work Through Rain, Gusty Wind To Find Survivors, Victims


MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Search crews at the Champlain Towers South collapse site worked through the night while dealing with the rain bands and gusty wind from Tropical Storm Elsa.

There are at least 80 search and rescue team members working on the pile at any given time, rotating in 12-hour shifts.

READ MORE: Tropical Storm Elsa Extected To Strengthen As It Continues To Bring Heavy Rains, Stormy Conditions To Florida Keys, Miami-Dade & Broward

Tuesday morning, weather concerns remained. When there is lightning and thunder, the search is temporarily paused.

“They are continuing their mission of the search of the collapsed area,” says Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “They’ve worked under this great difficulty, and they have pulled shifts to rotate because that’s how much they want to be out there searching. The first responders are the most frustrated by any delays we have. They live to save lives.”

Officials announced Monday evening the death toll had risen to 28 after four more victims had been recovered. Of those, 26 have been identified.

The number of unaccounted for is now 117.

The search area was expanded on Monday after the remaining standing building was demolished Sunday night.

A CBS4 News camera was aboard a boat just offshore and captured what remained of the Champlain Towers South tumbling down.

WATCH: Rest Of Collapsed Surfside Condo Demolished

 

Officials said it was unsafe to leave it standing, especially with concerns of Tropical Storm Elsa.

“We now have access to all the grids,” explains Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky. He says they’re able to use more heavy machinery and access points previously off-limits.

Monday evening, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said rescue operations are at 100 percent capacity.

READ MORE: Tropical Storm Elsa Drenches Florida Keys

“The looming threat of that building, the dangerous situation where debris could fall down, has been eliminated,” he said.

While it is safer now and the storm is less of a threat, the job isn’t any less grueling.

“A lot of the stuff has to be overturned by hand so these guys use small shovels but you have to be careful because we don’t know what’s below,” explained  Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius “Iggy” Carroll.

GALLERY: Demolition Of Remaining Collapsed Surfside Condo

An empty space in the skyline where the condo once stood makes for a jarring sight.

“It’s just the worst nightmare that you could possibly go through,” said Devin, looking at the memorial wall set up in front of where the Champlain Towers South building once stood.

Even in the rain, he and his wife, Marilyn, as well as others, stopped on Monday by to pay tribute.

“I just felt in my heart I had to come down and pay my respects,” says Marilyn. “Even though I don’t know the victims, this is something that you don’t want to happen to your family.”

Levine Cava said Monday they have raised millions of dollars to help the families affected.

“We’ve raised millions of dollars thanks to the generosity of people in this country and all around the world. Their generosity has been overwhelming. It is going to be very, very important to put these funds into these families hands to help them to rebuild and meet their unmet needs. They have already been getting this assistance,” she said.

Neighbors 4 Neighbors has established a fund to assist families impacted by the collapse as well as help feed first responders. To contribute, call Neighbors 4 Neighbors at (305) 597-4404 or go to neighbors4neighbors.org/surfsidefund.

MORE NEWS: Key Biscayne Takes Action After Video On Social Media Shows Crack In Ceiling Of Condo Parking Garage

Harding Avenue has re-opened to north and southbound traffic. Traffic going northbound on Collins Avenue will be diverted to Harding from 83rd to 90th Street. Collins Avenue from 83rd to 90th Street remains closed.



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