Florida condo collapse death toll rises to 86 as crews work 'to bring closure to families still waiting'

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Days after crews at the site of a massive condo building collapse solemnly transitioned from a rescue to a recovery mission, the death toll rose Saturday to 86 confirmed victims after the discovery of seven more bodies.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Saturday morning 43 people remain potentially unaccounted for.

"We have one shared purpose: to bring closure to families still waiting," Levine Cava said at a Saturday news conference.

Levine Cava said crews paused briefly at 7 a.m. due to a lightning strike before continuing work an hour later. Despite expected rain, she said recovery efforts will continue as long as crews can remain safe. She said hazardous material technicians are also for monitoring air quality at the site.

As recovery efforts continue at an "intense pace," Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said there has been a "huge amount of dust" on site.

Tina Paul, vice mayor of Surfside, said on-site teams from Israel would be leaving Surfside on Saturday night and thanked them for their work.

"They have worked tirelessly, 24 hours a day," she said.

Paul said Israeli crew members spent eight hours recovering a single body, taking care to handle it in accordance with Jewish law.

"Go in peace, my friends, our friends," she said. "Thank you so much for being with us, standing with us. We are not alone."

Miami-​Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said Thursday he expects the search for human remains will take several more weeks.

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In a "small piece of good news," Levine Cava said Friday a cat living on the building's 9th floor was recently found and reunited with its family.

The family of a teen rescued from the rubble has filed a law suit blaming the building's condominium association for ignoring a 2018 report from structural engineers that revealed major and widespread structural damage.

Teenager Jonah Handler was sitting in his room with his mother when the walls of their condominium in Champlain Towers South gave way two weeks ago.

“They free-fell to what they thought was certain death,” according to a lawsuit filed this week. “Stacie and Jonah landed several floors below and miraculously were still alive.”

However, while the 15-year-old Handler survived, his 54-year-old mother, Stacie Fang, died after being taken to the hospital for treatment.

The suit is among 15 that have been filed since the tower collapsed.

Contributing: Jane Musgrave, Palm Beach Post; The Associated Press

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at cfernando@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Miami condo collapse: more bodies found, death toll at 86