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Hurricanes May Strain Condo Collapse Rescue Efforts

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky have requested an additional search-and-rescue team to Surfside from FEMA.

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(TNS) - With the possibility of a busy hurricane season, which has seen four named storms, and a massive rescue operation at the Surfside condominium collapse, rescue crews could be caught in the middle of two disasters.

Authorities have already begun requesting the necessary resources so that rescue crews are free and able to respond to a storm impact elsewhere in Florida.

Currently, every Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force is deployed to the collapse of the Champlain Towers South.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky have requested the deployment of an additional search-and-rescue team to Surfside from FEMA to free up some crews to handle possible storms in the next week.

"The thought process that both the chief and I thought about today was we have all eight Urban Search and Rescue teams engaged in this fight from Florida, so we talked about doing a relief," Guthrie said. "So we have all the resources we need, but we're going to bring in another team to, if you will, back-fill those resources."

The timing may be crucial as there are two disturbances being tracked in the Atlantic by the National Hurricane Center, as of the 8 p.m. advisory. It is far too early to tell if these disturbances will progress into storms or where they will go.

"Due to the recent five-day forecast with two storms, we decided that it would be best to go ahead and activate them," Cominsky said.

The closer disturbance is a tropical wave a few hundred miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Forecasters say it has a 10% chance of formation in the next 48 hours and a 20% chance in the next five days.

The further system is also a tropical wave and is about midway between the west coast of Africa and the Windward Islands. Forecasters say its chances of strengthening into a tropical depression is 40% in the next two days and 60% in the next five.

"There's no more needed resources in the numbers of people, but we want to rotate those out so that we can get some resources back in case in seven to 10 days or so we may be dealing with some type of tropical cycle," Guthrie said.

Cominsky said authorities had already requested to have three federal teams on standby in case they are needed. One will now be deployed to Surfside, he said.

Meanwhile, the Mexican volunteer rescue crew Brigada de Rescate Topos Tlaltelolco, which flew in to Surfside to aid the rescue efforts, is not currently being activated.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokeswoman Erika Benitez said authorities are aware the Topos rescue team was in Surfside and that they will evaluate whether to request their services in the efforts.

"We know they're here," she said. "We have all necessary resources at this time. They will help if we need assistance. Right now, we're considering it and if the moment comes for them to help, they will join our team."

Soraya Cohen, who is missing her husband and brother-in-law following the collapse, posed for a photograph with the rescue crew on Tuesday and called them "the best trained Mexican search and rescue crew."

Cohen, who has criticized the pace of rescue efforts, wrote in a text message accompanying the photo that the crew told her "they are being denied access."

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