, Fla. (AP) — The discovery of four more victims in the rubble of a collapsed condominium building brought the death toll
to 32, officials said Tuesday, as the search effort was hampered by new threats from Tropical Storm Elsa
Rescuers were forced to pause their work
for two hours early Tuesday due to lightning, according to Miami-Dade Assistant Fire
Chief Raide Jadallah, who also stated that workers had removed 5.5 million pounds of debris from the pile.
Workers in yellow helmets and blue jumpsuits sifted through the rubble for the 13th day as stiff winds of 20 mph (32 kph) with stronger gusts blew through the area as gray clouds from Elsa's outer bands swirled above.
Elsa was expected to strengthen and become a hurricane
again before making landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and Florida
's Big Bend and crossing northern Florida.
Officials say the search crews can work through rain
, but lightning from unrelated thunderstorms has forced them to pause at times, and a garage area in the rubble has filled with water
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava
said the delays frustrated rescue crews.
“Truly, they live to save lives, and they have pushed forward regardless of what has been thrown in their path,” she said at a news conference
on Monday evening.
Despite this, crews received a significant boost on Sunday when the unstable remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South
building was demolished, allowing rescuers access to previously inaccessible areas, including bedrooms where people
were believed to be sleeping at the time of the disaster, according to officials.
“Now that the damaged building is down, the site is busier and more active than I’ve seen it since we started,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett
said, adding that heavy equipment could now move freely around the site.
Rescuers hoped to get a better picture of any voids that may exist in the rubble as they searched for anyone still trapped beneath the collapsed wing of the building, but they found very few, Jadallah told family
members late Monday.
No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse, but rescuers are still hopeful that loved ones can be reunited.
“We continue to focus on our primary mission, which is to leave no stone unturned and to find as many people as we can in order to help bring either answers or closure to family and loved ones,” said City of Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll.
Calvan contributed reporting from Tallahassee, with help from Associated Press
writers Cody Jackson
in Surfside, Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale
, Ian Mader in Miami, David Fischer in Miami Beach
, and Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta