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Eight more bodies found in Florida condo tower collapse after demolition

imageWorld20 minutes ago (Jul 06, 2021 07:31PM ET)

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Search-and-rescue personnel work on the debris of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, U.S., July 5, 2021, in this still image obtained from video. Courtesy of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department / Handout via

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By Francisco Alvarado

SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) -Search and rescue teams on Tuesday pulled the remains of eight more victims from the ruins of a Florida condominium tower as they were able to penetrate more of the disaster site after demolishing a fragile section that had remained standing.

The new confirmed death toll of 36 means that 109 people who may have been inside the building when it crumbled are still considered missing. That number could change as police detectives work to confirm a list of residents.

“I ask all of you around the world who continue to follow this story, please keep these victims in your hearts and prayers,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told an afternoon news conference.

Levine Cava announced the updated death toll hours after several hundred mourners gathered in a Miami Beach church at the first funeral for victims of the June 24 collapse.

Marcus Guara, 52, his wife Ana Guara, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, were remembered as a tight-knit family who loved taking walks on the beach and spending time together.

All four were killed when half of the 12-story Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida abruptly came down in the early morning hours as most residents slept.

“Who would have thought a few weeks ago that our community had so many ties to one little building in one small corner of Florida called Surfside,” Marcus Guara’s cousin, Peter Milian, said during a eulogy for the family.

TROPICAL STORM ELSA APPROACHES

The search for more victims is carrying on despite the approach of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

Forecasters say Surfside will likely be spared the worst of the storm, but its approach prompted local officials demolish a still-standing section of the building on Sunday night due to worries that high winds could knock it down.

Lightning brought by Elsa forced search and rescue teams to halt their operation for a time on Tuesday. Officials said their task could be interrupted again before the storm passes.

Though local officials say they have not given up hope of findings survivors, no one has been discovered alive in the rubble since the first few hours after the condominium tower collapsed.

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescuers have not found any “livable spaces” during their search where survivors could have been spared.

More than 124 tons, or 5 million pounds, of debris has been removed from the site, with identifiable pieces sent to a police warehouse for use in upcoming investigations, including a grand jury probe.

Investigators have not determined what caused the tower to fall, but attention has been focused on a 2018 engineering report that warned of structural deficiencies.

The Champlain Towers South disaster has prompted officials across South Florida to study residential buildings for signs of poor construction or damage.

Residents of a North Miami Beach condominium, Crestview Towers, were told to leave immediately last week after engineers found serious concrete and electrical problems.

Crestview Towers residents have not yet been allowed to return as city officials try to determine if the building can be shored up enough to make it safe.

Eight more bodies found in Florida condo tower collapse after demolition