Miami condo collapse death toll rises to 28 as Tropical Storm Elsa begins to hamper search effort

THE death toll of the collapsed building in Surfside, Florida has risen to 28 as time runs out for rescuers to pull more victims from the rubble with winds from Tropical Storm Elsa beginning to barrel in.

Rescuers are rushing to dig through the rubble of the demolished building to find the remaining 117 missing people.

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Four more bodies were pulled from the rubble on Monday, bringing the total death toll to 28, with 26 identified so far.

The National Weather Service has warned of an "elevated tornado threat" at the site and severe thunderstorms due to the storm.

Lightning strikes already forced the rescue operation to stall Monday ahead of the storm, said Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava.

The remaining portion of the partially collapsed condo was demolished ahead of storm Elsa last night in the hopes of gaining access to newly uncovered areas of rubble.

Miami-Dade police tweeted: "The demolition of Champlain Towers South will take place tonight between 10pm and 3am.

"We urge residents who live in the Shelter in Place Zone – between 86th St and 89th St and Abbott Ave and the shoreline – to stay indoors effective immediately."

Explosions were heard at about 10.30pm ET before the building started to fall.

Gov Ron DeSantis has also declared a state of emergency in 15 counties – including Miami-Dade – with warnings of flooding and even tornadoes.

"All Floridians in the potential path of this storm need to prepare for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall, and flash flooding,” he said.

The counties under a state of emergency include Charlotte; Citrus; Collier; DeSoto; Hardee; Hernando; Hillsborough; Lee; Levy; Manatee; Miami-Dade; Monroe; Pasco; Pinellas; and Sarasota Counties.

Hurricane Elsa was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday, but still poses a huge risk as it continues to barrel its way towards Florida.

The storm is expected to takeover much of Cuba on Monday evening, before reaching in the Florida straits on Tuesday morning.

Elsa pummeled several Caribbean islands over the weekend, leaving one dead in St. Lucia, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, a boy, 15, and a 75-year-old woman died on Saturday in separate events in the Dominican Republic after walls collapsed on them.

Waves 12-to-14 ft (356cm to 427cm) high washed debris ashore in capital Santo Domingo.

In Barbados, more than 1,100 residents reported damage to property and at least 62 properties collapsed as the island was battered with strong gusts and torrential downpours.

Downed trees also were reported in Haiti, which is especially vulnerable to floods and landslides because of widespread erosion and deforestation.

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