Miami building collapse: Search efforts suspended ahead of demolitionon July 4, 2021 at 6:25 pm

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Teams could raze the standing portion of a collapsed apartment building late on Sunday.

US Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Police patrol at the site of a partially collapsed residential building in Surfside, Florida

image copyrightReuters

Search efforts for possible survivors in the rubble of a partially collapsed apartment block near Miami have been suspended ahead of the controlled demolition of the rest of the building.

Teams are set to start bringing down the remaining structure late on Sunday.

The demolition of Champlain Towers South was brought forward over safety fears due to an approaching storm.

Part of the 12-storey block collapsed on 24 June. Twenty-four people are known to have died and 121 are missing.

No survivors have been pulled from the rubble at the site in Surfside since the first few hours after the structure’s collapse.

The families of the missing were told in advance of the decision to pause the search effort, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Cava Levine said.

On Sunday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said at a briefing that the demolition would happen late on Sunday night, the Miami Herald reported, although no exact time has been set.

Mr Jadallah said small holes were being drilled into the foundation of the building before explosive charges are placed.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said there were no plans to evacuate any other buildings for the demolition.

“We encourage you to close all of the windows and the doors and all air intakes, and to cover all other openings that may allow dust to enter,” she said.

The decision to bring forward the demolition was made after concerns were raised over the approaching Tropical Storm Elsa, which is expected to reach Florida on Tuesday.

The mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett, said strong winds in the coming days could bring down additional debris from the unstable structure, endangering the lives of the search teams.

“It was obvious that the building was a problem,” he said on Saturday, adding: “We agreed that the only solution for that problem was to eliminate it.”

Announcing the temporary pause in the search operation, Ms Cava Levine said the latest developments did not mean an end to the rescue effort.

“We will begin the search and rescue once again on any sections of the pile that are safe to access as soon as we’re cleared,” she said.

Drones and 3D imaging equipment are being brought in to help those combing the rubble for signs of life.

The mayor signed a demolition order on Friday. There are no details about compensating the owners of the apartments affected.

A man mourns at the memorial for victims of a partially collapsed residential building as the emergency crews continue the search and rescue operations for survivors, in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Florida, 2 July 2021

image copyrightReuters

Meanwhile, officials are investigating other tower blocks in the area for structural faults.

What caused the 40-year-old Champlain Towers South to crumble remains unclear. A 2018 inspection, however, warned of “major” design flaws in the original design.

The building association’s board has said it will appoint an “independent receiver… to oversee the legal and claims process”.

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