Rescue crews found the body of the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter while searching the wreckage of Champlain Towers South, officials said Friday as they announced that the known death toll had risen to 20. As many as 128 people remain unaccounted for.
The discovery of the firefighter’s daughter was especially painful for rescue crews, many of whom have labored for more than a week in Surfside, Fla., without finding any survivors.
“Every victim we remove, it’s difficult,” said Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. “Last night was even more when we were removing a fellow firefighter’s daughter.” He added: “As firefighters, we do what we do. It’s kind of a calling. And we always say that. But it still takes a toll.”
Elad Edri, the deputy commander of an Israeli team working at the site, said police officers and firefighters formed two columns to flank the girl’s removal from the debris. Mr. Edri said that once she had been taken away, the rescuers embraced and wept.
The search, which paused for about 14 hours on Thursday amid fears that the rest of the condo building could fall, has progressed slowly, with each passing day further dimming the chances of finding survivors. Though rescue crews said they were holding out hope that they might find someone alive — a point Chief Cominsky reiterated on Friday — officials have spoken in increasingly blunt terms about the outlook.
“They’re praying, they’re pleading, ‘Let there be a miracle,’” President Biden said Thursday after meeting with the families of the missing.
The number of people who have not been accounted for dropped slightly Friday after officials audited their reports and found that some people who had been marked missing were in fact safe.
As the weekend approached, authorities were making contingency plans for Hurricane Elsa, which had strengthened Friday from a tropical storm. The hurricane, which was already threatening Caribbean islands, was expected to turn toward Florida by the end of the weekend, with strong winds reaching the state as early as Sunday evening.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said officials were planning to continue searching in Surfside, while also protecting any equipment that might be threatened by the storm and monitoring the stability of the partly collapsed building.
“We’re adding this special emphasis on this site because we understand the sensitivities involved,” Mr. DeSantis said.
Even as the search continues and investigations remain in their early stages, court hearings are already being held about the collapse. At a virtual hearing on Friday, a lawyer for the building’s condo association board said the surviving board members — one is still missing — had voted unanimously to appoint an independent party to handle the lawsuits that residents have started filing against the board.
Michael Goldberg, a lawyer, will serve in the position, known as an independent receiver, and will be closely involved in how the association uses $48 million in insurance money and any proceeds from asset sales, including cash distributions to survivors and families of the dead.