“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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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