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Surfside condo collapse death toll now at 86, authorities say

Officials said there has been an increase in the number of victims recovered because crews have been able to remove a large amount of debris from the pile.

The number of confirmed deaths in the Miami Beach-area condo building collapse rose to 86, officials said Saturday while noting that the removal of debris has given search and recovery teams access to parts of the rubble they had not been able to reach.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava provided an update on the recovery efforts during a Saturday morning news conference. Forty-three people are still potentially unaccounted for, according to the mayor.

"Please pray for all of those who have lost loved ones and whose hearts are broken from this unspeakable tragedy and for those who are still waiting," she said.

During a Friday news conference, the mayor said the number of confirmed deaths had risen to 79.

Mourners visit the memorial site for victims of the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse on Friday, in Surfside, Fla.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Levine Cava said crews will work throughout the day to find more victims. Bad weather halted the recovery operation for about an hour Saturday morning, but it has since resumed.

Of the 86 victims, more than 60 have been identified. The mayor said they are notifying family members as quickly as possible once a recovery has been made.

Officials said Saturday that there has been an increase in the number of victims recovered because crews have been able to remove a large amount of debris from the pile. Authorities said during Friday's news conference that more than 13 million pounds of concrete and debris had been hauled away.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the pile is now ground level and below in some areas.

"We've seen an increase in areas that we just weren't able to search earlier," Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said. "So by removing the layer, certain floors throughout that area, that's why I think we're now seeing the increase in numbers of victims recovered."

Excavators dig through the remains from the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building on Friday in Surfside, Fla.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Crews have been searching through the rubble for the past two weeks after the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside partially collapsed June 24.

What caused the 12-story building to come crashing down remains under investigation, although a 2018 report highlighted an engineer's concerns that the building had "major structural damage." The engineer said his findings showed there was "abundant cracking" and crumbling in the underground parking garage of the condo building.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology and local agencies are investigating what caused the partial collapse.