Authorities to demolish rest of collapsed Miami building as storm looms

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SURF, FLA. >> Demolishers will bring down the remainder of a partially collapsed condominium in South Florida ahead of a storm that has heightened fears the structure could collapse dangerously on its own, have officials announced today.

With Tropical Storm Elsa looming in the Caribbean and expected to move into the state in the coming days, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the Surfside building was “shaky” and “structurally unhealthy” and that its demolition was the prudent thing to do.

“If the building is demolished, it will protect our search and rescue teams because we don’t know when it could fall,” DeSantis said at a press conference. “And, of course, with those gusts, it would potentially create a really serious danger.”

The confirmed death toll in the 12-story Champlain South Towers collapse, meanwhile, rose to 24 with the discovery of two more bodies in the rubble, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. 124 people are still missing.

Officials believe what remains of the building can be brought down as early as Sunday with little disruption to search and rescue efforts, DeSantis said. Concerns had already grown over the past week that the damaged structure was at risk of breaking down, endangering the crews below and complicating the search.

“The fear was that (Elsa) might demolish the building for us and demolish it in the wrong direction,” said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.

Elsa was demoted Saturday from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 km / h) as it grazed the island of Hispaniola, home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The long-range forecast track showed it heading for Florida like a tropical storm on Tuesday morning, although some models are transporting it into the Gulf or along the Atlantic coast. Weather officials have warned that this could bring heavy rain and gusty winds to the Miami area.

“So we cannot let our guard down,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Molleda. “You still have to watch this very closely. “

Deputy Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told relatives of the missing during a morning briefing that the building would be destroyed “as soon as possible.” First thing tomorrow.

But he warned there could be “some issues” and a follow-up meeting was due in the afternoon to finalize details. Demolition could be a precarious operation as experts enter the building to pierce the structure and lay explosives on it.

Concerns about its stability reduced searches in adjacent areas, and changes detected by monitors early Thursday resulted in a 15-hour suspension of all effort until engineers determined it was safe to resume.

Once demolished, the remains will be immediately removed in an effort to allow rescuers to gain access for the first time to parts of the garage that are a center of interest, Jadallah said. This could give a clearer picture of the voids that may exist in the rubble and could potentially shelter survivors.

No one has been saved alive since the first hours after the June 24 collapse.

The demolition would temporarily suspend research, but officials do not hope for long. Some families had asked to be able to return to the building to collect their personal effects, but they will not be allowed to do so.

“At the end of the day, this building is too dangerous to let people go back to it,” DeSantis said. “I know there are a lot of people who were able to come out, luckily, who have things there. We’re very sensitive to that, but I don’t think it’s possible to let anyone go up into this building given the shape they’re in now.

The governor also declared a state of emergency before the storm arrived.


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