The remainder of the partially collapsed Surfside condo has been demolished

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Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told CNN in a Sunday night briefing that once the area is deemed safe after the building is demolished, search and rescue teams will resume their work. efforts on the debris heap.

“As soon as the building is down and once the site is deemed secure, we will have our first responders on the stack to immediately resume their work,” Levine Cava said Sunday evening.

She called the demolition method an “energy slaughter”, describing it as a process that “uses strategically placed small explosives and relies on gravity to put the building in place.”

The demolition was to be confined to the immediate area around the building, but neighboring residents were urged to stay indoors as a precaution, the mayor said, citing dust and other particles that will be an “under- inevitable product “of demolition.

Authorities raced against Tropical Storm Elsa, which is heading south Florida with heavy rain and sustained winds of 60 mph. The demolition team continued preparations on Sunday – the 11th day since around 55 of the building’s 136 units collapsed in early June 24, killing at least 24 people. There are 121 people who are missing.
Those who died include sisters aged 4 and 10, an elderly couple and the daughter of a firefighter.
Nicole Mejias told CNN on Saturday that five members of her family were in the Champlain Towers South building when it collapsed, including Stella Cattarossi, 7, the daughter of the Miami firefighter. Cattarossi’s body was found Thursday evening.

“We miss them so much already, we wish this tragedy did not happen and we will always remember them,” said Mejias.

Appearing on CBS ‘”Face the Nation” on Sunday, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett stressed that authorities are still working with the idea that it remains a rescue effort.

“It’s absolutely not a recovery effort,” Burkett said, later adding, “There’s nobody in charge that’s really talking about stopping this rescue effort. And this rescue effort, in that concerns me, will continue until everyone is pulled from this debris. “

Burkett said during Sunday’s briefing that his team were tasked with changing their operational approach around the collapsed structure as Tropical Storm Elsa approached.

“It seems that the approach of the storm may have been a blessing in disguise for us as it started the discussion on demolition,” he said.

Burkett said he hopes the demolition will eliminate a potentially dangerous threat to workers and perhaps open an estimated third of the remaining pile to search and rescue teams.

“We want to make sure that we are in control of the direction the building is falling and not a hurricane, so all of that together, I think, ended up being a good thing,” Burkett said.

Demolition plans and storm race

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 15 counties, including Miami-Dade County, on Saturday due to Tropical Storm Elsa.

“We are preparing for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surges, heavy rains and flash floods,” DeSantis said, adding that the state had “started executing contingency plans for the joint response to Tropical Storm Elsa and Surfside “.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Florida Keys and a tropical storm watch is in effect for parts of southwestern Florida to Tampa Bay.

Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane on Friday and early Saturday, but weakened to a tropical storm as it targeted the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Forecasters say the center of the storm will not have a direct impact on Surfside, although the city may be affected by its outer bands, with gusts of wind and rain beginning in the area as early as Monday morning.

The potential for weather problems at the site of the collapse influenced decisions by authorities on the ground, and Levine Cava said on Saturday officials hoped the demolition could be completed before the area felt the impacts of Elsa.

Plans to demolish the remaining part of the building were announced at the end of the week as rescuers continued to search the debris for the victims.

Search and rescue operations were briefly suspended Thursday after engineers noted a displacement of the debris pile that posed a danger to rescue teams, officials said. After operations resumed later in the day, authorities confirmed that a demolition would likely be necessary to ensure the safety of rescue teams and the collapse site for further searches.

A cross hangs among wilted flowers at a makeshift memorial near the South Champlain towers.

On Sunday, the board of directors of Champlain Towers East, a sister building of Champlain Towers South, suggested that its residents evacuate before demolition, according to a letter from the condominium association’s board of directors obtained by CNN.

The letter said that although advice has yet to be given, it is encouraging residents to evacuate in advance as nearby streets will be congested due to the demolition. They also asked residents to take their pets and valuables with them, including passports and valuable documents.

“The foundations of our building have been checked several times, but we make this suggestion with great caution,” the letter said. “We don’t expect any impact for us, but you can’t be too careful under the circumstances.”

Controlled Demolition, Inc. was commissioned to demolish the remaining structure of the South Champlain Towers, Levine Cava said.

The governor expressed support for Elsa’s pre-impact demolition plan and said on Saturday he believed it would be best if the building was destroyed before the storm arrived. “With these gusts potentially, that would create a very big danger.”

Survivors are unlikely to recover their belongings before demolition

As for the survivors, demolition could mean the confiscation not only of their homes but also of their property.

Those whose condos were not affected by the collapse had to evacuate without much of their belongings, leaving behind clothing, valuables and family photographs. But officials said it was not safe for them to return inside to retrieve these items.

"Tragedy beyond tragedy": Champlain Towers South was a disaster in slow motion

“Right now we are told the building is not secure. People are not entering the building,” Levine Cava told CNN on Friday when asked if the survivors could collect their belongings. “I don’t know how this could have happened.”

When asked on Sunday if the families of the victims would be able to recover items that belonged to those they lost, such as their clothes, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez III said that homicide detectives had “collected salvageable items and recorded and documented them at that time.”

Any kind of inheritance that can be safely recovered is documented to “be dealt with at a later date with family members,” he said.

Additionally, a system has been put in place for family members to report the property they are looking for, Ramirez said.

Authorities also did what they could to save any animals that might remain in the building before the demolition.

On Sunday evening, Levine Cava said Miami Dade firefighters carried out multiple searches of the premises, searched closets and under beds, as well as the use of thermal imaging drones to locate animals. The latest information available to officials was that no animals had been left inside.

“Those who were forced to evacuate the remaining part of the building left their entire lives behind,” said Levine Cava. “We know that. And we are deeply, deeply concerned and empathetic about how extraordinarily difficult this time is for them and their families.”

Miami Beach apartment building must be evacuated

Amid the investigation into the causes of the collapse, the neighboring city of Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a three-story residential building on Saturday night out of caution, according to city spokeswoman Melissa Berthier.

The building is located on avenue Lenox and has 24 units by Berthier. According to the city, 11 of the units are unoccupied and one person required housing assistance.

It is at least the second building ordered evacuation in Miami-Dade County since the collapse of Champlain Towers South. The Crestview towers in North Miami Beach were evacuated on Friday.

The company delayed repairs due to stability issues a few months before the Surfside building collapsed

Berthier said Miami Beach fire crews responded to a service call on Saturday about a vacant unit. When the municipal inspector arrived on the scene, he reported a “failure of the flooring system in this unit and excessive deflection on an exterior wall.”

The evaluation of the structural integrity of the building is underway, according to Berthier.

In addition, the Town of Surfside has asked owners of buildings over 30 years old and over three stories to assess their properties for recertification before their traditional 40-year deadline.

According to a note obtained by CNN from a resident of the Champlain Towers East complex, James McGuinness, manager of the Surfside building, asked these owners – especially those with structures on the ocean side of Collins Avenue – to hire an engineer. Registered geotechnical technician perform an analysis of foundations and underground soils.

The note reminds owners that it is their responsibility to make these recertifications and to maintain the buildings regularly. He also requests a written action plan in response within 30 days of receiving the note.

CNN’s Brian Todd, Natasha Chen, Kevin Conlon, Claudia Dominguez, Casey Tolan and Haley Brink contributed to this report.


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