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Death toll in South Florida condo tower collapse rises to 36

Mourners stop to pay respects to the missing victims at the memorial outside St. Joseph Catholic Church near the collapsed Champlain Towers condo in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday. Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

July 6 (UPI) -- The death toll has risen again at the site of a collapsed condo building near Miami, officials said Tuesday, as crews worked through the debris with Tropical Storm Elsa nearby.

During a news conference, officials said eight new victims had been discovered Tuesday -- raising the total to 36 people dead since the collapse on June 24 at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, about 3 miles north of Miami Beach.

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Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters that 26 of the victims have been identified. She also said 70 of the missing were definitely inside the building when it collapsed.

"We know waiting for news is unbearable," Cava said during an evening news conference.

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Miami-Dade police identified three victims recovered Monday as Nancy Kress Levin, 76, Jay Kleiman, 52, and Francis Fernandez, 67.

Cava said that 109 people are reported as unaccounted for and 191 residents of the building have been accounted for.

"Detectives are conducting ongoing and very thorough reviews of these names and reports," Cava said at a morning news conference. "Many were originally submitted incomplete. So, we may have a name without an apartment number or date of birth or other details."

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Cava encouraged family members to come forward with any information about those who are still missing.

Officials also expressed some concern about Tropical Storm Elsa, which approached Florida's western coast Tuesday evening. Crews were forced to stop the search briefly after midnight Monday and again for about 2 hours on Tuesday afternoon due to lightning, they said.

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Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said strong winds from the storm slowed the work of large cranes that were removing heavy debris.

Officials said 124 tons have so far been moved at the site and some 5 million pounds of concrete have been hauled away.

Burkett said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked him to help manage donation efforts to relatives to "make sure no one falls through the cracks."

A controlled demolition on Sunday night brought down the rest of the Champlain Towers South building due to fears that Elsa might cause the rest of it to collapse.

Cava said the Royal Caribbean cruise line has brought in a ship where first responders working at the site can rest in between shifts.

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