The demolition of the remains of the partially collapsed condo complex near Miami Beach could happen as soon as Sunday, officials said, in an effort to tear down the unsafe structure before the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa.
Two more people were found dead on Saturday in the rubble of the 12-story Champlain Towers South in the community of Surfside, officials said at a news conference, bringing the total to 24 deceased and 124 missing or feared dead, as the search and rescue operations continued for more than a week.
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky told reporters the demolition of what was left standing of the towers had to take place as soon as possible because Elsa is forecast to reach southern Florida as early as Monday. “We’d have no control of where it lands,” he said.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said that initially demolition experts told officials it could take weeks before the remaining, unstable structure could be taken down.
But the fear is that the storm will knock it down and drop debris atop the area where there might be survivors, he said.
“Obviously the building is a problem and the only solution is to get rid of it,” he said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava signed an order calling for the immediate demolition of the building and it could happen as soon as Sunday, officials said.
“It is our fervent desire to get this done before the storm,” Levine Cava said. “Yes, we are concerned that tropical storm force winds could affect the stability of the building.”
She said the families of the victims have been told of the decision and that, “they understand.”
Fire officials said the building would be removed in a controlled manner using explosive charges, not a wrecking ball or other methods. Contractors were inspecting the site on Saturday to come up with a plan, officials said.
Worries that the remaining section of the complex was dangerously unstable halted search and rescue efforts at the scene for much of Thursday.
No survivors have been pulled alive from the ruins since the first few hours after the tower partially caved in on itself early on June 24.
Investigators have not determined what caused the 40-year-old complex to collapse. A 2018 engineering report found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries that include a grand jury examination.
Meanwhile, all residents of another building, Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach, were told on Friday to leave immediately after engineers found serious concrete and electrical problems, officials said.
The move was considered urgent due to the approach of Elsa, North Miami Beach city manager Arthur Sorey said, adding that the building’s owners had not yet begun a mandatory safety recertification process required 40 years after it was built.
“It’s definitely not an easy decision,” Sorey said. “It’s just the right thing to do during these times. It’s uncertain what’s going to happen with the storm.”