SURFSIDE, Fla. – A stepped-up rescue attempt at the collapsed condo complex faced additional weather threats as Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall in Florida, avoiding South Florida for the most part.
Elsa increased on Tuesday, possibly becoming a hurricane again before making landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and Florida’s Big Bend and across northern Florida, with bands of heavy rain forecast in Surfside. Officials stated that while search personnel can operate in the rain, lightning from unrelated thunderstorms has forced them to pause at times, and a garage area in the rubble has filled with water.
Rescue teams were frustrated by the delays, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
“They truly live to save lives, and they’ve pushed through no matter what obstacles have been thrown in their way,” she remarked during a press conference later that evening.
Nonetheless, the unstable remaining piece of the Champlain Towers South structure fell down Sunday, giving rescuers a huge boost. Officials stated that the demolition, which was spurred by concerns that the structure would collapse, provided rescuers access to previously inaccessible areas, including bedrooms where individuals were believed to be sleeping at the time of the catastrophe.
Four more victims have been identified, bringing the total number of individuals killed to 28. Another 117 persons were still missing.
“Now that the damaged building is down, the site is busier and more busy than it has been since we started,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, adding that heavy equipment can now move freely about the site.
As they searched for anyone remaining trapped beneath the fallen wing of the building, rescuers hoped to gain a clearer picture of gaps that may exist in the rubble, but they found very few voids, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah informed family members late Monday.
Although no one has been rescued alive since the fall, rescuers were still hopeful that loved ones could be reunited.
“We continue to focus on our core purpose, which is to leave no stone unturned in our search for as many people as we can in order to help deliver either answers or closure to family and loved ones,” stated City of Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll.