Urgent ” Authorities in Florida have moved forward with plans to demolish a partially collapsed 12-story condominium building in Surfside, citing concerns that winds from Tropical Storm Elsa could topple the remaining structure as search-and-rescue teams comb through the rubble in the hopes of finding scores of residents who remain missing.
Experts are already on-site analyzing the structure, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and a contract has been signed to demolish what remains of Champlain Towers South as soon as feasible.
As of Saturday morning, the death toll from the collapsed apartment complex had grown to 24, with 121 people still missing. Since the first few hours after the collapse on June 24, no one has been rescued.
Levine Cava told reporters at a news conference on Saturday evening that the search-and-rescue operation was momentarily halted at 4:00 p.m. owing to demolition preparations, which included drilling into weak columns.
Work can resume once the remaining portion of the building has been dismantled.
Once the final plan is in place, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says the structure can be demolished in 36 hours. The destruction might start as early as Sunday, according to Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.
“We were worried that Elsa, who had already been downgraded to a tropical cyclone, would bring the building down for us and do it on top of the victims,” Burkett explained. On Saturday morning, Levine Cava announced a local state of emergency in Elsa. “We’re ensuring we’re mobilizing whatever we need in the county to prepare for any possible impacts,” she added at the meeting, “out of an abundance of caution.”
Elsa is expected to make landfall as a tropical storm near Florida by Tuesday morning, while some forecasts predict it may make landfall in the Gulf of Mexico or along the Atlantic Coast.
The quick plan comes a day after Levine Cava announced that the building would be razed as soon as engineers approved the next stages, which might take weeks. Officials have restricted access to portions of the construction zone that pose a health and safety risk to the public.
However, according to Levine Cava, a demolition expert came forward Friday evening with the experience to move the project along faster than expected. Engineers, as well as state, local, and federal officials, assessed the proposal and concluded that it was the best way forward, according to Levine Cava.
“Because this proposed demolition has such a small footprint, we aren’t expecting any severe consequences or further evacuations,” Levine Cava explained. “We are still conducting due diligence.”
After search-and-rescue activities were delayed for much of Thursday due to concerns that the remaining structure would collapse, the decision to demolish the portion of the building that is still intact was made.
The cause of the fall of the structure is yet unknown. In 2018, nearly three years before the collapse, an engineering firm examined the condo tower and published a report stating that inadequate waterproofing beneath the building’s pool was creating “severe structural deterioration.”
The degree of concrete deterioration would develop exponentially if the waterproofing is not replaced quickly, according to the expert.
According to the research, failing to restore the waterproofing in the near future will dramatically increase the extent of the concrete deterioration.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has initiated a study into the collapse and will offer recommendations on how to make buildings safer.
Levine Cava has ordered a 30-day assessment of buildings in Miami-Dade County that are 40 years old or older and have not completed the re-certification process and are five floors or taller. The county is looking into 14 of these structures, as well as 10 that have recently started the recertification process.
After an audit and building inspection report identified unsafe structural and electrical concerns, a condo complex in North Miami Beach was closed and more than 300 people were evacuated on Friday.