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Death toll rises to 27 as unstable part of Florida condo tower demolished

There have been no survivors found since the first hours after the June 24 collapse.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Jul 2021

building-collapse-miami Several after hours after the Champlain Tower South complex was demolished. Carl Juste Carl Juste

THE DEATH TOLL has climbed to 27 after the collapse of a Florida condo tower, where search work resumed after the dangerously unstable remaining portion of the building was brought down with explosives ahead of a coming tropical storm, officials said.

Some 118 people remained missing after the 12-story Champlain Towers South crumbled over a week ago in Surfside, but a search official put the chances of finding survivors at “close to zero.”

Still, crews “were in full search and rescue mode” by early today, hours after the remaining section of building was toppled in a haze of smoke and dust, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a briefing.

The imminent arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa – it was expected to reach west-central Cuba by midday before passing near the Florida Keys – forced authorities to accelerate the demolition schedule.

She said the demolition had gone according to plan and that searchers had found three more victims in the rubble after work resumed.

Crews were making their way into parts of the underground garage that is of particular interest; once there, they’re hoping to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble and could possibly hold survivors.

2.60751969 PA Images PA Images

Through the night, rescuers were awaiting the “all-clear” after the demolition so they could dive back into the task of trying to locate any survivors buried under the rubble. Officials had previously said that the search could resume from 15 minutes to an hour after the detonation.

“We are standing by. We are ready to go in, no matter the time of night,” Miami-Dade County mayor Levine Cava told a news conference earlier on Sunday evening.

No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the 24 June collapse.
Rescuers have recovered the remains of 24 people, with 121 still missing.

Rescuers are hoping the demolition will give them access for the first time to parts of the garage area that are a focus of interest.

building-collapse-miami Rescuers and a rescue dog are seen on the rubbles as search and rescue mission continues at the 12-story oceanfront condo, Champlain Towers South. Pedro Portal Pedro Portal

Once a new pathway into the initial rubble is secure “we will go back to the debris pile, and we’ll begin our search and rescue efforts”, Miami-Dade Fire chief Albert Cominsky said.

The decision to demolish the Surfside building came after concerns mounted that the damaged structure was at risk of falling, endangering the crews below and preventing them from operating in some areas.

Parts of the remaining building shifted last Thursday, prompting a 15-hour suspension in the work, while an approaching tropical storm added urgency to the concerns yesterday. 

Experts are looking at possible pre-existing critical flaws in the building’s structure, and are surveying other older high-rises in the area for potential problems.

With reporting from © – AFP 2021

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