Miami condo collapse search and rescue halted before Tropical Storm Elsa

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“There is a threat to the standing building,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Saturday evening, adding that because of this, engineers and the demolition crew have halted operations around 4 p.m. Saturday.

“We are waiting for the engineers’ instructions (…) before we can resume safely,” she explained.

At least 24 people died in the collapse – two of whom were removed from the rubble on Friday evening. The victims include four and ten-year-old sisters, an elderly couple and the daughter of a firefighter.

“We miss them so much already, we wish this tragedy did not happen and we will always remember them,” said Mejias.

As of Saturday evening, 121 people were still missing in the tragedy, while 191 were counted, Levine Cava said.

Now officials continue to work around the clock to make sure the site is secure ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is heading into South Florida with heavy rain and strong winds expected to hit the coast late Sunday. evening until early Monday morning.

Race Against the Storm

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 15 counties, including Miami-Dade County, on Saturday due to Tropical Storm Elsa.

Tropical storm watches have already been issued for parts of the Florida Keys and “additional watches are expected for the west coast of Florida,” DeSantis said. “We are preparing for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surges, heavy rains and flash floods.”

“The state has started to execute contingency plans for the joint response to Tropical Storm Elsa and Surfside,” he added.

Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane on Friday and early Saturday, but weakened to a tropical storm as it targeted the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Although the forecast remains uncertain for the continuation of the trajectory and intensity, the potential for weather problems at the site of the collapse influences the decisions of the authorities on the ground.

“We are still hopeful that we can do the demolition before the storm hits,” said Levine Cava. “We are moving as fast as possible.”

The authorities do not yet know the exact time of the demolition. “The engineers are on site and they’re still doing their due diligence, so we don’t have a specific timeline at this time,” Levine Cava said on Saturday evening.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said: “The fear was that the hurricane could destroy the building for us and cause it to fall in the wrong direction, on top of the pile where we have casualties.”

Burkett added that the demolition “will allow rescuers to pour over the entire site without fear of any danger of falling debris or falling buildings.”

Demolition plans

Plans to demolish the remaining part of the building were announced at the end of the week as rescuers continued to search the debris for the victims.

Search and rescue operations were briefly suspended Thursday after engineers noted a displacement of the debris pile that posed a danger to rescue teams, officials said.

After operations resumed later in the day, authorities confirmed at a press conference that demolition would likely be necessary in order to protect rescue teams and the collapse site for further research.

A cross hangs among wilted flowers at a makeshift memorial near the Champlain Towers South condo building.
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Levine Cava announced on Saturday that Controlled Demolition, Inc. will take care of the demolition of the remaining southern structure of the Champlain Towers.

“They did other major demolitions,” Levine Cava said, adding that the company “is evaluating the scene right now.”

On Saturday, the governor expressed support for the demolition plan ahead of Elsa’s impact.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. At the end of the day, this building is too dangerous to let people go back in,” DeSantis said.

He explained that he thought it would be best if the building had broken down before the storm arrived, saying: “With these gusts potentially, it would create a very big danger.”

Levine Cava said the county would not need to evacuate any additional buildings before demolition, but would announce a perimeter for the demolition area.

A family of four, a 60-year-old love story, a young man with muscular dystrophy: what we know about the victims of the collapse

Burkett also assured residents on Saturday that the demolition is not expected to impact other buildings in the area.

Burkett said he has received calls from concerned citizens who are concerned about the potential impacts of the demolition on their buildings as well as the environmental impacts of the debris.

The materials for the debris pile were tested by a company hired by the structural engineers and “there were no significant issues in the debris,” Burkett told reporters on Saturday evening.

Investigators are trying to determine what happened

A thorough examination of the debris will help authorities determine what happened and hopefully prevent another collapse like this.

The company delayed repairs due to stability issues a few months before the Surfside building collapsed
Since part of the building fell over a week ago, complaints about the construction of a nearby skyscraper have come to light through interviews with survivors, family members of the victims and victims. documents obtained by CNN.

On Saturday, CNN learned that the developer behind Eighty Seven Park, a recently erected skyscraper next to Champlain Towers South, offered $ 400,000 to the Surfside Tower board amid construction complaints.

The construction of that building had been the source of complaints, including at least one from a member of a condo’s board of directors to a Surfside building official in January 2019, documents obtained by CNN Show.

Under the agreement sent by the group behind the luxury building, residents of Champlain Towers South should have released the developer from any liability and the condominium board should have publicly supported the development. in letters sent to the city of Surfside and Miami Beach, where Eighty Seven Park was being built, in return for payment, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The deal was introduced in 2019, according to the Washington Post, which first reported on it.

"Tragedy beyond tragedy": Champlain Towers South was a disaster in slow motion

It was never signed by the Champlain Towers South condominium board of directors, Max Marcucci, a spokesperson for the board of directors, told CNN.

Robert McKee, an attorney for one of the residents of Champlain Towers South suing the condominium board on Friday, suggested during a court hearing that civil plaintiffs should investigate the neighboring building, calling the promoter of “significant potential defendant”.

CNN has reached out to the developer behind Eighty Seven Park to comment on the proposed deal.

CNN’s Brian Todd, Natasha Chen, Kevin Conlon, Claudia Dominguez, Casey Tolan and Haley Brink contributed to this report.

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