SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) – Demolition crews set off explosives on Sunday night to bring down the damaged remaining portion of a collapsed South Florida condominium, a key step to resume the search for victims as rescuers can eventually gain access to new areas of the rubble.
Crews were to begin cleaning up some of the new debris so that rescuers could begin to force their way into the parts of the underground garage of particular interest. Once there, rescuers hope to gain access for the first time to parts of the garage area that are of interest, said Miami-Dade Deputy Fire Chief Raide Jadallah. This could give a clearer picture of the voids that may exist in the rubble and could potentially shelter survivors.
The precarious and still standing portion of a collapsed South Florida condominium building was rigged with explosive charges and ready to be demolished overnight, Miami-Dade County officials said on Sunday. The work suspended the search and rescue mission, but officials said it would open up new areas for rescue teams to explore.
Rescuers will wait for the “green light” after the demolition, then immediately dive back into the task of trying to locate the survivors buried under the rubble, County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. Authorities previously said the search could resume from 15 minutes to an hour after the detonation.
“We are standing. We are ready to come in, no matter what time of night, ”Levine Cava said at a press conference on Sunday night.
Search efforts have been suspended since Saturday afternoon to allow workers to drill holes for explosives. Miami-Dade Deputy Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said earlier that up to 210 rescuers will be ready to resume the search as soon as the site is declared safe after the explosion.
Levine Cava said on Sunday that the demolition of the building was a top priority.
“Bringing down this building in a controlled manner is essential to broaden the reach of our search and rescue efforts,” she told a press conference.
Authorities had evacuated residents from around the site before the demolition and warned others to stay inside and close windows, doors and any other openings that could let in dust.
So far, rescuers have recovered the remains of 24 people, 121 of whom are still missing. No one has been saved alive since the first hours after the June 24 collapse, but authorities have vowed to continue searching despite the diminished chances of finding survivors.
“There is no one in charge who is really talking about stopping this rescue effort,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told CBS “Face the Nation.” “As far as I’m concerned, this rescue effort will continue until everyone is out of this wreckage. “
There were concerns that the damaged building of the South Champlain Towers in Surfside could fall on its own, endangering the teams below and preventing them from operating in certain areas. The approach of Tropical Storm Elsa added urgency to the demolition project. The latest forecast has shifted the storm west, mostly sparing southern Florida, but meteorologists said the area could still feel effects as of Monday.
Jadallah said suspension of search efforts was necessary during drilling work before demolition, as it could cause the structure to fail. Once the structure is gone and its remains have been cleaned up, rescuers should have access for the first time to parts of the garage that are a center of interest, Jadallah said. This could give a clearer picture of the voids that may exist in the rubble and could potentially shelter survivors.
State officials said they hired BG Group, a general contractor based in Delray, Fla., To lead the demolition. It was not immediately clear how the company was selected, but a contract for the projects requires the state to pay the company $ 935,000.
A spokesperson for the state’s Division of Emergency Management said the company is outsourcing to Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., which experts say are among a handful of companies in the United States demolishing structures with explosives. The company was supposed to place explosives in the basement and lobby level of the still standing structure, according to the contract for the work.
The detonation was aimed at bringing the remaining part of the building down and to the side of the street, away from the existing pile of debris, Jadallah said.
The method of demolition is called “power blast,” which uses small detonation devices and relies on the force of gravity. It was planned to drop the building into place, containing the collapse in the immediate vicinity.
A spokesperson for the state’s Division of Emergency Management said BG Group has contracted out with Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., which experts say are among a handful of companies in the United States demolishing structures with explosives.