PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The search and rescue mission is growing more somber in Surfside, Florida after a deadly condo collapse. Those sifting through the rubble have not detected any new signs of life since the collapse nearly two weeks ago.
The death toll climbed to 36 on Tuesday. Wind and rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Elsa are complicating search efforts.READ MORE: New Jersey Native Carli Lloyd Makes USWNT Olympic History, Wins Bronze Medal At 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Eyewitness News spoke to a local firefighter on the frontlines.
This is still very much a rescue effort but the recovery of remains is a large part of the slow and somber task.
“We just keep working toward the overarching goal of getting everybody home to their loved ones,” said Pennsylvania Task Force 1 Capt. Ken Pagurek.
Eyewitness News spoke to Pagurek, a Philadelphia firefighter and task force leader for Pennsylvania Task Force 1, as crews were taking shelter from lightning and high winds caused by the approach of Hurricane Elsa.
“The wind is hampering the large cranes moving very heavy debris,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.
Days after the sudden June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South, 28 teams that make up the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System were deployed to Florida.READ MORE: 4 People Shot In Drive-By Shooting During Sidewalk Sale In Franklinville, Philadelphia Police Say
We were there as 70 members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 departed from Philadelphia to join the effort.
Rescuers work with engineers to find steady ground to work on while utilizing maps and floor plans to better understand where residents might be.
“It’s a tedious and methodical process and we are doing our work to ensure the safety of the members working on the pile,” Pagurek said.
The K-9s that traveled with them are trained to locate people alive, so the stress of the situation has not been reserved to human heroes.
“It’s hot, it’s humid, the dogs are having a hard time working in these conditions as well,” Pagurek said.
Pagurek says they are constantly monitoring the team’s critical incident stress levels as severe weather has made the timeline for their return unclear.MORE NEWS: Reports: Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers Agree To 2 Year, $20M Deal
New Jersey’s Task Force 1 was also activated which included three members from the Cherry Hill Fire Department.