As rescue workers searched through the rubble of the collapsed condominium building in South Florida, the death toll rose Monday evening bringing the number of people who lost their lives to 28 and the number of people still unaccounted for to 117.
Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky told reporters Monday that search-and-rescue crews are “moving full speed ahead” and are now able to safely access all sections of the rubble pile after the remaining portion of the building was imploded Sunday night.
Cominsky said crews are having to be cautious with lightning and wind gusts kicking up debris as the outer bands of Tropical Storm Elsa affect the region.
The National Weather Service said intermittent storms with some heavy rains and gusty winds are expected through the day Tuesday with conditions starting to gradually improve Tuesday evening as the storm moves farther north.
The search-and-rescue crews have been working since the condominium building in Surfside partially collapsed June 24. No one has been found alive since the earliest hours of the search, but Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava continued to describe the operations as a rescue effort as she addressed a Monday briefing.
Levine Cava described the immense scope of the work, saying crews have removed 2.1 million kilograms of concrete from the site. She said she was in awe of their work through difficult and dangerous conditions.
“For 12 days, fire, smoke, and now wind and torrential rain, they are continuing the mission and the search of the collapse area,” Levine Cava told reporters Monday evening.
Search operations were paused Saturday and Sunday amid concerns that the remaining portion of the building was too unstable and could collapse, especially given the approach of a tropical storm.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said at the Monday evening briefing that since the rest of the building was taken down, the “site is busier and move active now than I’ve seen it since we began.”
He said heavy equipment that was unable to move around certain parts of the site in the earlier days of the search is now able to operate without limits.
The search for people, he said, “will continue 24 hours a day for the indefinite future until everybody is pulled out of that site.”