By Francisco Alvarado
SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) -The first funeral for victims of a collapsed Miami-area condo building will be held on Tuesday as mourners gather to lay to rest a family of four, including two young children, nearly two weeks after the disaster struck.
Also, officials updated the death toll to 32 after four more bodies were found in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida. Some 113 people were still missing as rescue workers battled high winds from approaching Tropical Storm Elsa. Officials said they still have not determined what caused the collapse.
The lives of Marcus Guara, 52, his wife Ana Guara, 42, and their daughters, Lucia, 10, and Emma, 4, will be memorialized in a service at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Miami Beach starting 2:30 p.m. ET.
Marcus Guara had just started a new job in November as a sales manager for a maker of towels and linens and often raised funds for charities, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to his Facebook account.
Nobody has been pulled alive from the mounds of pulverized concrete, splintered lumber and twisted metal since the early hours of June 24 when roughly half of the building came tumbling down in an oceanfront town adjacent to Miami Beach.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told a briefing that rescue workers have been bothered by strong winds as Elsa approaches from the south.
“The wind is hampering the large cranes moving very heavy debris,” Burkett said, adding that he met with a family hoping rescuers will find their daughter, a recent law school graduate who married in January, and their son-in-law.
Experts and officials have warned that the probability of finding survivors was remote given how much time has passed.
Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said rescuers have not found any “livable spaces”. He said workers had removed more than 124 tons, or 5 million pounds worth, of debris to date.
Forecasters predict the area will be spared the worst of the storm. Still, concerns over the impact of Elsa prompted officials to order the demolition of the half of building that had been left standing, which was carried out on Sunday night.
Investigators have not determined what caused the 40-year-old complex to collapse. A 2018 engineering report found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries that include a grand jury examination.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava cautioned that it could take some time to find the root cause.
“The whole world wants to know what happened here,” Cava told the briefing. “I look forward to learning the truth.”
(Reporting by Franciso Alvarado; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Andrea Ricci and David Gregorio)