Death toll climbs to 32 in Florida condo collapse after search efforts resume

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Four more bodies were recovered at the site of the collapse of a 12-story condominium building in Surfside, Florida, after search and rescue operations resumed, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday morning.

The death toll has now climbed to 32 people with 113 still unaccounted for. This comes two days after the rest of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South had been demolished in a controlled explosion. The tower collapsed in the early morning hours of June 24.

“Every single life that has been lost is a beloved family, friend, a best friend, someone’s child, or parent, or niece, or cousin or grandparent and we know that waiting for news is unbearable.” Levine Cava said at a news conference.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said search and rescue efforts temporarily halted at 1 a.m. on Monday due to lightning, but have “returned to full power.” Rescue teams have been able to remove a total of 5 million pounds of debris from the site. 

A man is seen at the Surfside wall of hope & memorial in Surfside, Florida, U.S., on July 05, 2021.

Eva Marie Uzcategui | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is working with structural specialists, detectives and fire rescue crews on site to continue its federal investigation into the cause of the collapse, Levine Cava said. The U.S. Geological Survey and National Science Foundation are also expected to send additional staff to help with the probe. 

Levine Cava added that lidar scanners, a tool that uses light detection to measure the exact distance of an object on the Earth’s surface, are now being utilized to analyze the debris for NIST’s investigation. 

“We are working on all levels – local, state and federal –  to provide answers and accountability for the victims of this unthinkable tragedy,” Levine Cava said.

“And we’re going to be making policy changes, as you know, at every level, at every step in the building process to ensure that this can never ever happen again.”

Levine Cava said authorities expect occasional gusts and strong rain Tuesday from Tropical Storm Elsa. Weather monitoring services have been incorporated into search and rescue teams to track any changes that could impact search efforts, she added. 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett also provided updates on Champlain Towers North, the sister property of the collapsed condo building. Burkett said some residents have opted for alternative housing arrangements while authorities investigate the building’s safety using tools such as ground penetrating radar. 

“We have some deep concerns about that building, especially given that we don’t know what has happened there,” Burkett told reporters. 

The cause of the collapse of Champlain Towers South is still unknown. 

A report from 2018 reveals that the 40-year-old condominium building had shown signs of major structural damage in the underground parking garage and below the building’s pool deck. 

A video taken on the night of the collapse has also surfaced. It shows water pouring into the parking garage of the building.

After a brief stop to demolish the standing debris, Search and Rescue personnel continue working in the rubble pile of the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo on July 5, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.

Giorgio Viera | AFP | Getty Images

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