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Rescue efforts could be suspended as hurrican approaches

Florida condo missing tally cut to 128; body of firefighter’s daughter, 7, found

Confirmed death toll stands at 22; audit finds same people were listed twice, by English and Hebrew names; others have turned up safe

Search and rescue personnel remove remains on a stretcher as they work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building where scores of people remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Rescue efforts resumed Thursday evening after being halted for most of the day over concerns about the stability of the remaining structure.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Search and rescue personnel remove remains on a stretcher as they work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building where scores of people remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Rescue efforts resumed Thursday evening after being halted for most of the day over concerns about the stability of the remaining structure.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — The number of people missing in the Florida condominium collapse fell substantially Friday, from 145 to 128, after duplicate names were eliminated and some residents reported missing turned up safe, officials said.

Authorities also announced the recovery of four more bodies, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter. That raised the confirmed death toll to 22 people.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the number of missing declined following an audit. In some cases, when detectives were able to contact people who had been reported as potentially missing, they found that not only were they safe, but other members of their families were safe, too. That pushed the list of people who have been accounted for up to 188 and reduced the number of missing, she said.

“So this is very, very good news,” she said, adding that the numbers are expected to keep changing because detectives are continually reviewing the list and verifying reports.

Detectives have worked around the clock to contact relatives and others. In some cases, English and Hebrew names have been offered for the same missing relative, officials have said.

The 7-year-old who perished in the collapse was “a member of our fire family,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said.

The discovery of the girl’s remains was especially hard on rescuers, Levine Cava said.

A team secures sets of recovered remains in body bags, as search and rescue personnel work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building where scores of people remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

“It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders. These men and woman are paying an enormous human toll each and every day, and I ask that all of you please keep them in your thoughts and prayers,” she said at a news conference.

No one has been rescued since the first hours after the June 24 collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium.

During a meeting Friday with relatives of the missing, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said that only one voice has been heard during the entire search. A woman’s voice was detected until about 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. on the morning of the collapse, which happened around 1:30 a.m. Rescuers were unable to reach her, and he said no other voices or human sounds have been heard since.

Jadallah also prepared the families members for a possible suspension of the search if Hurricane Elsa — now in the eastern Caribbean — brings strong winds to South Florida that would make the work too dangerous.

Community resident Elizabeth Marts visits the beach near the Champlain Towers South condo building to pay her respects, one week after it partially collapsed with scores of residents inside, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Some rescue workers who are now staying in tents will be moved to cruise ships, which can stay safe during a tropical storm, Jadallah said.

About 600 first responders will stay on the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas, the cruise line said. The ship, which can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers, began housing rescue teams Thursday and likely will continue for the next month.

Friday’s announcements came a day after officials said they were working on plans to tear down what’s left of the building after concerns about the structure’s instability prompted a 15-hour halt to the search for survivors. Crews noticed widening cracks and up to a foot of movement in a large column.

It will likely be weeks before the demolition is scheduled, officials said.

Search and rescue personnel work alongside heavy machinery, atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of people remain missing one week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The cause of the collapse is under investigation. A 2018 engineering report found that the building’s ground-floor pool deck was resting on a concrete slab that had “major structural damage” and needed extensive repairs. The report also found “abundant cracking” of concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.

Just two months before the building came down, the president of its board wrote a letter to residents saying that structural problems identified in the 2018 inspection had “gotten significantly worse” and that major repairs would cost at least $15.5 million. With bids for the work still pending, the building suddenly collapsed last Thursday.

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