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SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — The search for victims of the collapse of a Miami-area high-rise condominium reached its 14th day on Wednesday, with the death toll at 46, scores still unaccounted for and authorities sounding more and more grim.

Rubble and debris of the Champlain Towers South condo can be seen Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Surfside, Fla. Officials overseeing the search at the site of the Florida condominium collapse seem increasingly somber about the prospects for finding anyone alive. They said Tuesday that crews have detected no new signs of life in the rubble nearly two weeks after the disaster struck at the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP)

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members in a private briefing Wednesday that workers had pulled 10 more bodies and additional human remains from the rubble, raising the death toll.

Crews “did some significant removal of the pile,” he said. “They were able to get down to various areas to inspect.”

Workers on Tuesday dug through pulverized concrete where the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside once stood, filling buckets that were passed down a line to be emptied and then returned.

The up-close look at the search, in a video released Tuesday by the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department, came as eight more deaths were announced — the most for a single day since the search began. It also came as rain and wind from Tropical Storm Elsa disrupted the effort, though the storm was on track to make landfall far across the state.

Searchers have found no new signs of survivors, and although authorities said their mission was still geared toward finding people alive, they sounded increasingly somber.

“Right now, we’re in search and rescue mode,” the county’s police director, Freddy Ramirez, said at a news conference Tuesday evening. He soon added: “Our primary goal right now is to bring closure to the families.”

No one has been rescued from the site since the first hours after the building collapsed on June 24 when many of its residents were asleep.

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Searchers were still looking for any open spaces within the mounds of rubble where additional survivors might be found, said the county’s fire chief, Alan Cominsky.

“Unfortunately, we are not seeing anything positive,” he said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the families of the missing were preparing for news of “tragic loss.” She said President Joe Biden, who visited the area last week, called Tuesday to offer his continued support.

“I think everybody will be ready when it’s time to move to the next phase,” she said.

Reporters got their closest in-person look at the site Tuesday, though it was limited to the portion of the building that workers tore down Sunday after the initial collapse left it standing but dangerously unstable. A pile of shattered concrete and twisted steel stood about 30 feet (9 meters) high and spanned roughly half the length of a football field. A pair of backhoes pulled rubble off the pile, which blocked any view of the search effort.

Severe weather from Elsa hindered search efforts to a degree. Lightning forced rescuers to pause their work for two hours early Tuesday, Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said. And winds of 20 mph (32 kph), with stronger gusts, hampered efforts to move heavy debris with cranes, officials said.

However, the storm’s heaviest winds and rain would bypass Surfside and neighboring Miami as Elsa weakened along its path to an expected landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and Florida’s Big Bend.

Crews have removed 124 tons (112 metric tonnes) of debris from the site, Cominsky said. The debris was being sorted and stored in a warehouse as potential evidence in the investigation into why the building collapsed, officials said.

Workers have been freed to search a broader area since the unstable remaining portion of the building was demolished.

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Building collapse shows town’s rich, middle-class division

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SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — The condo tower collapse in Surfside could exacerbate the division that already exists between the tiny Florida town’s new luxury buildings built for the global elite and those constructed decades ago for the middle class. It is already creating headaches for some small businesses.

Beachgoers walk by the beach entrance to the Arte by Antonio Citterio condominium, center, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump rent an apartment at Arte while their home is under construction at nearby Indian Creek Village. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The town has seen the construction of numerous new condos in recent years, where large oceanfront units exceeding 3,000 square feet (280 square meters) with modern amenities can fetch $10 million and up. Meanwhile, small units of 800 square feet (75 square meters) in neighboring condo buildings constructed decades ago can be had for $400,000.

Ana Bozovic, a South Florida real estate broker, said the June 24 collapse of the 40-year-old, middle-class Champlain Towers South will exacerbate this division. At least 36 people were killed and more than 100 remain missing.

Bozovic said many buyers will now avoid older buildings, not just because they fear they might also fall but because of repair costs the Champlain South owners faced before the collapse: $80,000 to $300,000 per unit. These factors will decrease older condos’ value, while prices in luxury buildings will continue to skyrocket.

“The holders of capital who are moving here were never considering older buildings. They are buying newer structures and preconstruction, so I don’t see this putting a damper on their appetites,” said Bozovic, founder of Analytics Miami. “What this will do is further depress sales of older structures and further bifurcate the market.”

Before the Champlain Towers South tragedy, Surfside, with about 6,000 residents on a half-square mile (1.3 square kilometers) of an island off Miami, was one of South Florida’s most anonymous municipalities — though in January Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner rented a luxury condo in a new building two blocks from the collapse.

The town is known for its clean beaches and a 12-story limit on its buildings, and stands in contrast with neighboring Miami Beach and its world-famous nightlife, Bal Harbour with its high-end shopping and both with buildings that are double and triple the height of Surfside’s tallest.

Mayor Charles Burkett said the town has experienced a “roller coaster” of emotions since the collapse. Demolition of the remaining portion of the structure and Tropical Storm Elsa, which brought strong winds and heavy rains to the area, have intensified what the community is going through.

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“We have faced innumerable challenges, but the little good news is the resources we have are all aligned, all focused and pulling in the same direction,” he said.

Ryan Mermer moved to Surfside earlier this year from Palm Beach County, drawn by the quiet, the town’s proximity to Miami’s thriving business climate and its large Orthodox Jewish community. On Saturdays, much of the town closes for the Sabbath except for the chain stores. Surfside was home to Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Yiddish poet and short-story writer who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature.

But Mermer also got a deal on a small apartment built a half-century ago, just steps away from the luxury condo that former President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law moved into. While Mermer’s building was constructed for the middle class, today’s construction is aimed at the New York, European and South American elite, who are drawn by the state’s lifestyle, weather and lack of an income tax.

“I pay $1,375 (a month) … across the street from the beach; Ivanka and Jared pay $38,000,” said Mermer, a real estate agent who also works for Holocaust Heroes Worldwide, a support group for survivors of the Nazi death camps.

In Surfside’s low-key shopping district one recent afternoon, barber Aramis Armor and Freddy Elias, the co-owner of a tailor and dry cleaning shop, had no customers. The pandemic hit their businesses hard, both said, and the collapse and the resulting street closures made it difficult for anyone to reach them.

Amor says that in normal times, the business district is full of families — they can have an ice cream, eat pizza or drink a coffee in the many locally owned businesses that dot the downtown.

“They are all very nice, the clients are very good,” Armor said. He blamed city officials for his lack of business, saying they should never have let the collapsed building decay like it did.

Elias, who has owned Surfside businesses for 25 years, is hoping a federal low-interest loan promised by President Joe Biden’s administration to stores affected by the collapse will tide him over until his customers return. Meanwhile, a partner was headed to a customer’s home for a fitting rather than make the client fight traffic to get to the store.

“Since COVID and now this tragedy, it has been very, very bad for us,” Elias said. “We need help.”

The streets reopened this week.

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Condo Collapse

4 more victims found in rubble; death toll rises to 32

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SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — The discovery of four more victims in the rubble of a collapsed condominium building raised the death toll to 32, officials said Tuesday as a ramped-up search effort faced new threats from severe weather with Tropical Storm Elsa.

Rescue workers handle a tarp containing recovered remains at the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building, Monday, July 5, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. The remaining structure was demolished Sunday, which partially collapsed June 24. Many people remain unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Lightning forced rescuers to pause their work for two hours early Tuesday, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said. He said workers have removed 5.5 million pounds of debris from the pile.

At the site of the collapsed building Tuesday morning, power saws and backhoes could be heard as workers in yellow helmets and blue jumpsuits sifted through the rubble for a 13th day. Stiff winds of 20 mph (32 kph) with stronger gusts blew through the area as gray clouds from Elsa’s outer bands swirled above.

Bands of rain were expected in Surfside as Elsa strengthened with potential to become a hurricane again before making landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and Florida’s Big Bend and crossing northern Florida.

The search crews can work through rain, but lightning from unrelated thunderstorms have forced them to pause at times, and a garage area in the rubble has filled with water, officials said.

The delays frustrated rescue crews, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

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“Truly they live to save lives, and they’ve pushed ahead no matter what is thrown in their way,” she said at a Monday evening news conference.

Still, crews got a big boost when the unstable remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South building came down Sunday. The demolition — prompted by fears that the structure could fall — allowed rescuers into previously inaccessible places, including bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping at the time of the disaster, officials said.

“The site is busier and more active now than I’ve seen it since we began, now that the damaged building is down,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, adding that heavy equipment was now able to move freely around the site.

Rescuers hoped to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble as they search for anyone still trapped under the fallen wing of the building, but they found very few voids, Jadallah told family members late Monday.

No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse, but rescuers were still holding out hope of reuniting loved ones.

“We continue to remain focused on our primary mission, and that is to leave no stone unturned and to find as many people as we can and to help bring either some answers to family and loved ones or to bring some closure to them,” City of Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said.

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Condo Collapse

Tropical Storm Elsa gaining strength, lashing Florida Keys

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The weather was getting worse in southern Florida on Tuesday morning as Tropical Storm Elsa began lashing the Florida Keys, complicating the search for survivors in the condo collapse and prompting a hurricane watch for the peninsula’s upper Gulf Coast.

In addition to damaging winds and heavy rains, the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center warned of life-threatening storm surges, flooding and isolated tornadoes. A hurricane watch was issued for a long stretch of coastline, from Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay to the Steinhatchee River in Florida’s Big Bend area.

Bands of rain were expected to reach Surfside on Florida’s Atlantic coast, soaking the rubble of the Champlain Towers South, which collapsed June 24, killing at least 28 people and leaving 117 people missing. Search and rescue crews have worked through rain, but must pause when lightning threatens, and a garage area in the pancaked debris already filled with water Monday, officials said.

Elsa’s maximum sustained winds strengthened to 60 mph (95 kph) early Tuesday. A slow strengthening is forecast through Tuesday night and Elsa could be near hurricane strength before it makes landfall in Florida. Its core was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Key West, Florida, and 270 miles (435 kilometers) south of Tampa. It was continuing to move to the north-northwest at 12 mph (19 kph).

The forecast included the possibility of tornadoes across South Florida on Tuesday morning and across the upper peninsula later in the day.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded a state of emergency to cover a dozen counties where Elsa was expected to make a swift passage Wednesday, and President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state ahead of the storm.

Forecasters predicted Elsa would hit coastal Georgia and South Carolina after Florida. Georgia’s coast was under a tropical storm watch, as was much of the South Carolina coast. Forecasters said tornadoes could strike in the eastern Carolinas and Virginia as Elsa moves north.

The storm surge could reach 5 feet (1.5 meters) over normally dry land in the Tampa Bay area if Elsa passes at high tide, forecasters said. Commander Col. Ben Jonsson said only essential personnel were being allowed Tuesday morning on MacDill Air Force Base, which is located along the bay on the South Tampa peninsula.

Tampa International Airport planned to shut down Tuesday at 5 p.m.

At a Tuesday morning news briefing, DeSantis reminded residents not to focus on the Tropical Storm Elsa’s so-called “cone of concern” because the storm’s “impacts are expected well outside that area.”

“And if you look at how the storm is it’s incredibly lopsided to the east,” DeSantis said. “So most of the rainfall is going to be east of the center of the storm.”

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Elsa’s westward shift spared the lower Florida Keys a direct hit, but the islands were still getting plenty of rain and wind Tuesday. Tropical storm warnings were posted for the Florida Keys from Craig Key westward to the Dry Tortugas and for the west coast of Florida from Flamingo northward to the Ochlockonee River.

Margarita Pedroza, who lives on a boat off Key West, told WPLG a stronger storm would have forced her ashore, but she was riding this one out. “Just batten down the hatches and get ready for it,” she told the television station.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s as strong as some of the other storms that have come around, so hopefully the winds won’t be as strong and maybe it’ll be some rain, but hopefully not too much rain,” she said.

Cuban officials evacuated 180,000 people against the possibility of heavy flooding from a storm that already battered several Caribbean islands, killing at least three people. But Elsa spent Sunday and much of Monday sweeping parallel to Cuba’s southern coast, sparing most of the island from significant effects.

It made landfall in Cuba near Cienega de Zapata, a natural park with few inhabitants, and crossed the island just east of Havana. Tuesday’s rainfall across parts of Cuba was expected to reach 10 inches (25 centimeters) with isolated maximums of 15 inches (38 centimeters), resulting in significant flash flooding and mudslides. But there were no early reports of serious damage on the island.

“The wind is blowing hard and there is a lot of rain. Some water is getting under the door of my house. In the yard the level is high, but it did not get into the house,” Lázaro Ramón Sosa, a craftsman and photographer who lives in the town of Cienega de Zapata, told The Associated Press by telephone.

Sosa said he saw some avocado trees fall nearby.

Tropical storm conditions were continuing over central and western Cuba on Tuesday morning, even as the storm reached Florida.

Elsa was the first hurricane of the Atlantic season until Saturday morning and caused widespread damage on several eastern Caribbean islands Friday. As a tropical storm, it resulted in the deaths of one person on St. Lucia and of a 15-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman in the Dominican Republic.

Elsa is the earliest fifth-named storm on record, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

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