The victims were recovered Monday morning, Miami-Dade deputy fire chief Raide Jadallah told family members, bringing the death toll to 27 people. More than 115 people remain missing.
Rescuers received the all-clear to resume work looking for victims in a collapsed condominium building in South Florida after demolition teams detonated a series of explosives that caused the last building to collapse in a cloud of dust.
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Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told the Associated Press that the demolition “went exactly as planned” at around 10:30 pm on Sunday.
The crews immediately began cleaning up some of the new debris so that the rescuers could advance into particularly interesting parts of the underground car park. Once there, they were hoping to get a clearer picture of voids that might be in the rubble that could potentially house the 115 people believed to be trapped under the collapsed wing of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, the on the 24th
No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse. On Sunday, Miami-Dade police identified 58-year-old David Epstein as one of 27 people known to have perished in the collapsed tower. His remains were recovered on Friday.
Shortly after the demolition, cranes were again in use on the construction site, which indicates that in the early hours of Monday morning, emergency services were again on duty to sift through the rubble from above and below.
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The rescuers hope that the demolition will give them access to parts of the garage for the first time. As soon as a new path into the initial rubble is secured, “we will return to the rubble and begin our search and rescue efforts,” said Albert Cominsky, Miami-Dade fire chief, at a press conference a few hours before the remaining wing of the high-rise apartment building collapsed.
During the demolition, a loud rat of explosions echoed from the building. Then the building plunged into a dust explosion one floor after the other. Feathers billowed in the air as the crowd watched the scene from a distance.
“It was a perfect picture. Exactly what we were told would happen,” Levine Cava said in an interview shortly after the demolition.
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Levine Cava was relieved that the search for victims can now continue after being suspended on Saturday so that workers could begin to equip the damaged but still upright part of the partially collapsed tower with explosives – a precarious operation, which could result in the structure being destroyed failure.
“I feel relieved that this building was unstable. The building hampered our search efforts,” said Levine Cava.
Some residents had asked to return to their homes one last time to retrieve belongings hastily left behind, but were refused. Others wondered about the abandoned pets, although officials said they found no signs of animals after three final searches, including using drones to peer into the abandoned structure.
Approaching Tropical Storm Elsa has made demolition plans more urgent as projections suggest there could be strong winds in the region by Monday. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency because of the storm in Florida, thereby enabling federal aid.
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The latest predictions have shifted the storm westward, largely sparing South Florida, but National Hurricane Center meteorologist Robert Molleda said the area could still feel an impact.
“We expect primarily gusts of tropical storm force,” said Molleda, referring to gusts over 40 mph (64 km / h).
The decision to demolish the remains of the Surfside building was made after concerns grew that the damaged structure was about to crash, endangering the crews underneath and preventing them from operating in some areas. Parts of the remaining building were moved on Thursday, causing work to be suspended for 15 hours.
Authorities had gone door to door to inform residents of the time of the demolition and to ask them to keep the windows closed. They were instructed to stay indoors until two hours after the explosion to avoid the dust raised by the implosion.
The method for the Sunday evening demolition is known as “energetic felling,” which uses small explosive devices and uses gravity. Levine Cava, who spoke ahead of the demolition, said this should get the building in place to contain the collapse in the immediate area to minimally disrupt the existing heap of debris – where dozens of people are believed to be trapped.
Officials used tarpaulins to visually mark the search area in case new debris was unexpectedly scattered.
State officials said they hired BG Group, a general contractor based in Delray Beach, Florida, to oversee the demolition. They didn’t immediately respond to a query about how the company was selected, but a contract for the project calls for the state to pay the company $ 935,000.
A spokesman for the state’s emergency management department said the company had sold Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc. The company was contracted to place explosives in the basement and lobby levels of the standing building for the work.
CDI is “probably one of the best” in the business, said Steve Schwartz, a board member of the National Demolition Association. He described the company’s president and owner, Mark Loizeaux, as “cool, calm, and collected”.
Implosions – where explosives are used to collapse a building – usually trigger charges in a matter of seconds, said Scott Homrich, who heads the National Demolition Association and runs his own demolition company in Detroit, Michigan. The setting down of the explosives at intervals serves to break open the building at the same time as it collapses.
Calvan reported from Tallahassee. Associated Press Writer Terry Spencer of Surfside, Florida; Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami, Florida; Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta and Ian Mader in Miami contributed to this report.
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