The death toll from last week’s condominium collapse in Florida rose on Friday (July 2) to 20 after search-and-rescue crews found two more bodies, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, officials said.
The grim, painstaking search for victims in the rubble, which was suspended for most of Thursday over safety concerns, proceeded on Friday with greater caution and a watchful eye on a hurricane that could strike Florida within days.
There are 128 people still missing and feared buried beneath tons of pulverized concrete, twisted metal and splintered lumber as the search stretched into its ninth day.
The number of people unaccounted for dropped by 17 from Thursday’s figure. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news briefing that the totals were fluid, in part because investigators sometimes learned of additional family members when determining whether missing residents were safe.
The young girl was the third child to be recovered from the collapse site in the oceanfront town of Surfside, next to Miami Beach.
Levine Cava said the discovery was especially difficult for rescuers, who have mounted an unprecedented around-the-clock effort to search for survivors even as the odds have grown longer with each passing day.
No one has been pulled alive from the debris since the initial hours after the 12-floor Champlain Towers South condo partially caved in on itself early on June 24 as residents slept.
Authorities were eager to make as much progress as possible before the expected arrival of Elsa, which strengthened into the first hurricane of the 2021 season on Friday as it threatened the Caribbean.
The storm could be near South Florida by Monday (July 5) or Tuesday (July 6), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters, with tropical storm-force winds arriving as early as Sunday (July 4) . But he warned that Elsa’s forecasted path remains uncertain.
(Production: Kevin Fogarty and Deborah Gembara)