Surfside Rescuers Not Finding Signs of Life in Rubble as Search Continues

As the search for people trapped in the rubble of the collapsed Florida condominium continues into another week, officials signaled that they were not seeing any new signs of life.

The death toll climbed to 32 while first responders searched the wreckage for a 13th day, hindered by wind and rain as Tropical Storm Elsa struck the Miami area.

"We're actively searching as aggressively as we can," Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said at a news conference. "Unfortunately, we are not seeing anything positive. The key things—void spaces, living spaces—we're not seeing anything like that."

Still, search-and-rescue workers pushed on, looking for gaps in the debris where survivors might be found alive nearly two weeks after the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside partially collapsed.

Surfside Funeral
Over 100 people are missing as the search-and-rescue effort continues at the collapsed condominium in Surfside, Florida. Above, mourners exit the July 6 funeral of Hilda Noriega, mother of the North Bay Village police chief, after she was killed in the collapse. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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While officials still call the efforts a search-and-rescue operation, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said families of those still missing are preparing for news of "tragic loss."

"I think everybody will be ready when it's time to move to the next phase," said Levine Cava, who stressed that crews would use the same care as they go through the rubble even after their focus shifts from searching for survivors to recovering the dead.

"Really, you will not see a difference," she said. "We will carefully search for bodies and belongings, and to catalog and respectfully deal with any remains that we find."

No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse, which struck early on June 24, when many of the building's residents were asleep.

Officials announced Tuesday that four additional bodies had been found in the debris, raising the death toll to 32.

Up to 113 people remain unaccounted for, though only 70 of those are confirmed to have been inside the building when it collapsed, Levine Cava said.

Severe weather from Elsa threatened to hinder search efforts. Lightning forced rescuers to pause their work for two hours early Tuesday, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said. And stiff winds of 20 mph, with stronger gusts, hampered efforts to move heavy debris with cranes, officials said.

However, the storm's heaviest winds and rain were expected to bypass Surfside and neighboring Miami as Elsa strengthened before making landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and Florida's Big Bend on a path across northern Florida.

"Active search and rescue continued throughout the night, and these teams continue through extremely adverse and challenging conditions," Levine Cava said. "Through the rain and through the wind, they have continued searching."

Crews have removed 124 tons of debris from the site, Cominsky said.

Workers have been freed to search a broader area since the unstable remaining portion of the condo building was demolished Sunday amid fears that the structure could fall. Officials said the demolition gave rescuers access to spaces that were previously closed off, including bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping at the time of the disaster.

Surfside wall
Workers with Surfside Public Works sweep up dead flowers from a makeshift memorial for victims of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium building on July 6. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo