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First responders depart Florida condo collapse site; 1 victim still unidentified

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 23 (UPI) -- Firefighters and rescue teams searching for victims of a Florida condo collapse ended their efforts Friday after nearly a month of removing and sifting through debris, local officials said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Urban Search and Rescue Team, Florida Task Force One and the City of Miami Fire Department's Florida Task Force 2 left the site of Champlain Towers South in Surfside around noon, WTVJ-TV in Miami reported.

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The departures came nearly one month after the building partially collapsed in the middle of the night, killing at least 97 people.

WSVN-TV in Miami reported the first responders took time to pay respects to the dozens who died in the collapse before leaving the site.

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"Providing closure to families was the ultimate test of everybody here and I think we did our best to do that and to make sure that everybody knew that we were in it 1,000 percent to make sure that they had the closure they needed for this disaster," Miami Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Scott Dean said.

Though the search of the debris for human remains has ended, one family says they still haven't been informed whether their loved one has been found and identified.

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Ikey Hedaya told CNN that his sister, Estelle Hedaya, 54, lived in an apartment in the building, half of which collapsed. She was not among the 97 victims identified -- 96 found in the rubble and one who died after being transported to the hospital.

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"The tough part is seeing my parents like this, day after day," he said. "I just want my sister to be at peace and get the honor and respect she deserves."

Authorities confirmed one person reported missing has yet to be identified. The Washington Post reported that some 26 million pounds of rubble have been taken off-site, where searchers are continuing to sift through the debris for any further remains.

"We are continuing to search with enormous care and diligence and to work closely hand-in-hand with faith leaders as we have since the beginning of this process," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Wednesday. "In collapses like this one, it is unfortunately very difficult to recover all the remains."

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