After warnings that a tropical storm could make the site unsafe, demolition crews used explosives to bring down the remaining structure left behind after the Miami building collapse.
Rescue teams are expected to resume their search for survivors once the Champlain Towers South condo building has been demolished. They have recovered the remains of 24 people thus far, with 121 still missing.
Since the first hours after the 24 June collapse at Surfside in southern Florida, no one has been pulled alive from the rubble. On Saturday, the search and rescue mission was paused to allow engineers to prepare the site for demolition. The unstable remaining portion of the 12-story building was rigged with strategically placed explosives, which successfully brought the structure down on Sunday after 10.30 p.m.
Rescuers said they were just waiting for permission to resume their search for any survivors still buried beneath the rubble.
“We are on standby. “We are ready to go in at any time of night,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava said earlier in the evening at a news conference. Rescuers believe that the detonation will allow them to enter some areas of the original collapse site for the first time, particularly the garage area, which is of particular interest.
According to Miami-Dade Fire Chief Albert Cominsky, once a new path into the rubble is secured, “we will return to the debris pile and begin our search and rescue efforts.”
The decision to demolish the structure with a controlled explosion came amid growing concerns that the damaged structure would collapse due to a storm approaching Florida. A warning has been issued for Tropical Storm Elsa, which is expected to bring strong winds to the area later Monday, endangering the lives of rescuers and posing a risk to the damaged building.
The storm has moved westward, mostly sparing South Florida, according to the latest forecast, with heavy rain and sustained winds of 60 mph. However, officials warned that the storm’s effects could be felt in the area for some time.
Meanwhile, the mayor advised residents to remain inside their homes and close their windows for at least two hours following the explosion. Local authorities were dispatched door-to-door to inform neighbors. Ms Cava Levine expressed her condolences to the families of those still missing in the rubble and stated that those who were asked to leave the remaining portion of the building had “left their entire lives behind.”
“I truly believe… that the family members recognize and appreciate that we are proceeding in the best possible manner to allow us to conduct the necessary search,” said Levine Cava.
The demolition is known as “energetic felling,” and it is a type of controlled explosion that employs small strategically placed detonation devices and relies on gravity. The mayor explained that the explosion will bring the building down in such a way that the existing mound of debris is barely disturbed, despite the fact that scores of people are still believed to be trapped beneath it.
Earlier on Sunday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah stated that small holes were drilled into the building’s foundation and explosive charges were placed.
State officials hired a general contractor to oversee the demolition. The BG Group, based in Delray Beach, Florida, was hired for the $935,00 project.