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A short of Key West in Florida as Elsa lashes down on the southern state
Florida residents have already been braving extreme weather, before the storm truly makes landfallImage: The Key West Citizen/dpa/picture alliance
CatastropheUnited States of America

Hurricane Elsa heads for Florida amid Miami rescue efforts

July 7, 2021

The storm, which already hit large parts of the Caribbean, has strengthened to a hurricane. It's already disrupting recovery and rescue efforts at the site of a collapsed apartment building in the Miami area.

https://p.dw.com/p/3w8Fv

 A storm that has already hit the Caribbean and Florida Keys regained hurricane strength late on Tuesday, complicating the search for survivors among the rubble of a collapsed apartment block.

US forecasters predicted that Hurricane Elsa would make landfall around the Tampa Bay area early on Wednesday morning, with wind speeds as high as 120 km/h (roughly 75 mph).

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned locals of the "hazardous conditions" that would result from Elsa's passage through the southern state.

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez told residents to expect power blackouts and asked people to stockpile adequate supplies of food and water.

"If you are asked to evacuate, please leave," she said, reminding people that there were emergency shelters ready to accommodate them.

The Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said that Elsa would also hit coastal Georgia and South Carolina.

A satellite shot of Tropical Storm Elsa
Elsa is expected to shift westwards after passing through FloridaImage: NOAA /AP/picture alliance

Miami officials scramble for survivors

Officials hope Elsa will not disrupt the search for survivors in Surfside, Miami, where a condo building collapsed on June 24.

A team of some 200 search-and-rescue workers continued to look for open spaces under the rubble where people might be found alive.

"Active search and rescue continued throughout the night, and these teams continue through extremely adverse and challenging conditions," the city's mayor Danielle Levine Cava said. "Through the rain and through the wind, they have continued searching."

The mayor of Miami gives a news conference about Tropical Storm Elsa
Local officials fear the worst in the ongoing search for survivorsImage: Carl Juste/Miami Herald/TNS/picture alliance

Local authorities said, however, that the removal of heavy debris was briefly paused due to heavy gusts on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, eight additional bodies were pulled from the rubble, putting the death toll at 36 and leaving more than 100 people still unaccounted for.

"We're actively searching as aggressively as we can,'' Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said at a news conference. "Unfortunately, we are not seeing anything positive."

The demolition of the partially collapsed apartment block had been brought forward, for fear that Elsa might topple the building in an uncontrolled way.

More than 100,000 people in Cuba were cleared from the storm's path before Elsa hit on Monday, causing mudslides.

In the days before, the storm passed over the Dominican Republic and St Lucia, killing three people.

jf/msh (AP, Reuters)