SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) -The death toll from a collapsed Miami-area condominium rose to 28 on Monday after the controlled demolition of the remainder of the building on Sunday night enabled rescuers to expand their search, officials said.
The discovery of the 28th victim was announced during a news conference Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day, officials reported pulling three other bodies from the wreckage.
Another 117 people remained missing 11 days after the 12-story residential building collapsed in Surfside, Florida, prompting a search-and-rescue effort that has continued almost around the clock, pausing only for bad weather, dangerous shifting of the rubble, and the demolition.
Roughly half of the condominium building came tumbling down early in the morning on June 24, and rescue workers were kept away from the unstable half that remained standing for their own safety.
Tropical Storm Elsa in the Caribbean had also threatened to blow the remains over, so officials ordered the building to be taken down by a demolition crew that placed charges at enough weak points to prompt another collapse.
“The search-and-rescue team has been able to search all sections of the grid on the collapse, following the building demolition,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters.
Although updated forecasts predict the Surfside area is likely to avoid the brunt of the storm on its projected course to the north from Cuba, scattered showers and thunderstorms were forecast.
Nobody has been pulled alive from the mounds of pulverized concrete, splintered lumber and twisted metal since the early hours of the disaster in an oceanfront town adjacent to Miami Beach in Florida.
But officials publicly express hope of finding additional survivors, however remote that may seem, while rotating crews of local and international experts take turns sifting through the debris.
“I’m in awe of the men and women of the … task force teams who’ve been continuing to brave dangerous and changing conditions. For 12 days, fire, smoke, and now wind and torrential rain – they are continuing the mission and the search of a collapse area,” Levine Cava said.
“Truly, they live to save lives,” she said.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the site was “busier and more active now” than when the rescue effort began.
Investigators have not determined what caused the 40-year-old complex to collapse. A 2018 engineering report found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries that include a grand jury examination.
(Reporting by Francisco Alvarado in Surfside; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Franklin Paul, Richard Chang, Sonya Hepinstall and Paul Simao)