Engineers declared the ruins of a Miami-area condo tower that fell unsafe, and was destroyed overnight Sunday, officials said.
Officials stopped search-and-rescue activities at the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, on Saturday afternoon, fearing that the unstable complex may collapse on personnel working through the rubble pile.
Miami – At a press conference, Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava stated the structure was demolished between 10 p.m. Sunday and 3 a.m. Monday.
Residents were advised to remain indoors and cover any windows or other air intakes that may let dust into their houses.
She stated that taking the building down was “essential” in order for first responders to continue looking for casualties in a safe manner.
“They’ll be back on the pile to start their job as soon as the building comes down and the site is considered secure,” she added.
Initially, officials estimated that demolishing the remaining condominiums would take weeks, but Cava signed an order to demolish the structure as quickly as possible.
When announcing the decision, the mayor stated that “the building posed a hazard to public health and safety.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis stated that the state covered all demolition costs.
Cava said that the city employed a technique known as energetic felling, which involves a succession of tiny detonations and the use of gravity to bring the building down.
It also confined the collapse inside the footprint of the structure, however, surrounding neighbors were given early notice so that they could stay inside with closed doors and windows to avoid debris getting into their houses.
According to Cava, they were also ordered to switch off their air conditioning to avoid dust from entering.
Champlain Towers South collapsed abruptly more than a week ago, with 24 confirmed dead and 121 persons still missing as of Sunday morning.
Out-of-town personnel were called in to help with the recovery and identification of the persons who were still missing, including search-and-rescue teams from Mexico and Israel.
Authorities will be able to broaden the scope of their search activities within the rubble pile without fear of the surviving structure collapsing on the crews.
Cava expects that now the structure is demolished, an all-clear will be granted promptly, but Tropical Storm Elsa may force another work delay.
Despite the fact that the storm is presently heading west of the state, with its course predicted into the Gulf and landfall in the Tampa region, the National Weather Service predicts that Surfside will witness higher gusts and rainfall in the following days.
As part of the bad weather predicted to arrive Monday evening, DeSantis said Sunday that there might be a potential for localized tornadoes.
Following the collapse of Champlain Towers South, officials in the Miami-Dade region have initiated an assessment of the structural integrity of all municipal condo high-rises over five storeys.
On Friday, one North Miami condominium complex was evacuated as part of the examination.
According to a statement released Friday by the city of North Miami Beach, the Crestview Towers Condominium, which was erected in 1972, was the subject of a recertification report on Jan. 11 in which an engineer claimed the 156-unit complex “was structurally and electrically hazardous.”
As a result, the zoning board “ordered the immediate closure and evacuation of Crestview Towers Condominium.”
The Champlain Towers North, located approximately a block away, was subjected to a speedy investigation, and Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett stated that nothing was discovered that indicated the tower was in danger.
An engineering firm hired by the homeowners would undertake a deep-dive assessment of the north tower on Tuesday, he added.
While some tenants have chosen to leave, many have remained, claiming that their building — which is nearly identical to the Champlain Towers South that fell — is better maintained.
A number of papers linked to Champlain Towers South have been made public, revealing earlier worries about the building’s structural soundness.
According to a 2018 study, engineering expert Frank Morabito discovered “abundant cracking” and crumbling in the 12-story building’s subterranean parking garage.
Morabito advised that concrete slabs near the entryway and pool deck that were “showing distress” be “removed and rebuilt in their entirety.”
He stated that the concrete degradation should be “repaired as soon as possible.”
Cassondra “Cassie” Billedeau-Stratton, who is now missing, told her husband on the phone before her line went dead that the pool had been engulfed by a large sinkhole soon before the collapse.
Following the catastrophe, at least three lawsuits have been filed, including one filed on Monday by Raysa Rodriguez, who was rescued from a balcony.
The building “swayed like a sheet of paper,” she said in a complaint seeking class-action status.
“We can’t comment on current litigation,” a representative for the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association Inc. stated, adding that “our emphasis remains on caring for our friends and neighbors during this difficult time.”