Surfside Condo Collapse: Death Toll At 36 After Total Of 8 Bodies Recovered Tuesday
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Search crews at the Champlain Towers South collapse site in Surfside have recovered a total of eight victims Tuesday.
Four bodies were pulled out overnight. Officials then announced Tuesday evening that another four bodies were recovered, raising the death toll to 36.
Of those 36 victims, 29 have been identified. The number of potentially unaccounted people is now 109.
Three more bodies were identified Tuesday evening. According to Miami-Dade police, they were 76-year-old Nancy Kress Levin, 52-year-old Jay Kleiman and 67-year-old Francis Fernandez – who were all recovered on Monday.
WATCH: Miami-Dade Mayor Gives Tuesday Evening Update On Search-&-Rescue Efforts
"The bed started to shake. The bedroom itself started to shake. And I thought, 'I'm having a dream,'" recalled Steven Rosenthal.
Rosenthal was fast asleep in his seventh-floor condo at the Champlain Tower South when it came crashing down.
"The dust from the ceiling starts to fall. And then I said, 'This is no dream,'" he said.
Instead, a real-life nightmare that turned into terrifying reality.
"Total collapse. The hall completely blocked. My neighbor is yelling, 'Help me, help me, get me out,'" he said. "She said, 'It's gone.' I said, 'What do you mean it's gone?' I'll never forget it – she says, it's gone.'"
And 13 days later, rescues crews continue the painstaking job of sifting through the pile of rubble. No one has been found alive since the first day of the collapse.
To make matters more difficult, the search was paused temporarily in the afternoon due to lightning.
There are at least 80 search and rescue team members working on the pile at any given time, rotating in 12-hour shifts.
"These teams continue through extremely adverse and challenging conditions. Through the rain and through the wind, they have continued searching. They paused only briefly for lightning, which is legally required for up to 30 minutes for pauses whenever there's a lightning strike within two and a half miles of the site," said Levine Cava.
"Today we brought in cooling stations closer to the site to provide relief from the ongoing heat as well as county buses, where they can take quick breaks from the wind and other conditions. We're also grateful to the support from Royal Caribbean, which is providing a dock ship where first responders can also rest between the shifts," she added.
The search area was expanded on Monday after the remaining standing building was demolished Sunday night.
A CBS4 News camera was aboard a boat just offshore and captured what remained of the Champlain Towers South tumbling down.
WATCH: Rest Of Collapsed Surfside Condo Demolished
On Monday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chiel Alan Cominsky had a grim update from the search teams.
"The key things we are looking for in regards to void space, livable spaces, we're not coming across that. We are actively searching as aggressively as we can to assist the families in locating these individuals," said Cominsky.
GALLERY: Demolition Of Remaining Collapsed Surfside Condo
The chief said while they have not cleared any areas in their search grid, they are making progress.
"Floorwise, we have definitely de-layered several floors, but each grid is different. The magnitude of this collapse and the way the building collapsed in certain areas, you know we've been able to go a few floors lower in one grid per se than the other, but we definitely have not been able to get to the lower floors," said Cominsky.
Levine Cava said as the search continues, so does the evidence gathering process.
"The teams are extremely well coordinated. They're capturing all possible insights from the debris and all evidence is being properly tagged and logged. The US Geological Survey and National Science Foundation are also sending additional staff and the LIDAR scanners are working so that we can better analyze the debris given the rough terrain of the pile, and to make sure that we have the proper equipment and personnel on the site. All this evidence will be critical to the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) eventual fact finding report," said Levine Cava.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said while the investigation into what caused the collapse is ongoing, they do have concerns about its sister building.
"We are doing a deep dive with respect to the sister building, you know, called the Champlain Towers North, which is essentially the same building, built by the same developer at the same time, with the same plans probably with the same materials. Given we do not know why the first building fell down, we have significant concerns about that building and the residents in there. You know, from the very beginning, we worked to make sure that those residents had alternative housing if they wanted it. Several of them have taken us up on that offer," he said.
An empty space in the skyline where the condo once stood makes for a jarring sight.
"It's just the worst nightmare that you could possibly go through," said Devin, looking at the memorial wall set up in front of where the Champlain Towers South building once stood.
Even in the rain, he and his wife, Marilyn, as well as others, stopped on Monday by to pay tribute.
"I just felt in my heart I had to come down and pay my respects," says Marilyn. "Even though I don't know the victims, this is something that you don't want to happen to your family."
Neighbors 4 Neighbors has established a fund to assist families impacted by the collapse as well as help feed first responders. To contribute, call Neighbors 4 Neighbors at (305) 597-4404 or go to neighbors4neighbors.org/surfsidefund.
Harding Avenue has re-opened to north and southbound traffic. Traffic going northbound on Collins Avenue will be diverted to Harding from 83rd to 90th Street. Collins Avenue from 83rd to 90th Street remains closed.
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