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A general view of a partially collapsed residential building in Surfside.
Officials said the demolition could take less than two daysImage: Gerald Herbert/AP Photo/picture alliance

Rescue mission stops at collapsed Florida condo

July 4, 2021

Demolition workers are preparing to bring down the rest of the partially collapsed condo building in Surfside, Florida, before the forecast tropical storm Elsa.

https://p.dw.com/p/3w02U

The search and rescue mission at the collapsed Surfside condominium in Florida has been suspended as the city prepares to take down the rest of the building, officials said Saturday.

Much of the 12-story Champlain Towers South building collapsed within seconds in the early hours of June 24 while the residents slept.

Officials said Saturday that the death toll was at 24, while 124 were still listed as missing.

No survivors have been pulled out of the rubble since the first hours after the collapse.

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told relatives of the victims that the rescue mission stopped Saturday afternoon.

What we know about the demolition

At around 4.p.m., demolition crews began drilling holes into the concrete of the still-standing portion of Champlain Towers South, Jadallah said.

The suspension of the search and rescue work was a necessary safety measure as the drilling could cause the structure to collapse, he added, stressing that if it does, "it's just going to collapse without warning."

The building won't come down until Monday at the earliest, Jadallah said.

Governor Ron DeSantis said the demolition could be completed within 36 hours.

Officials had earlier said the work could take weeks, but DeSantis' remarks entailed "minimal work stoppage from the search and rescue teams."

Authorities were racing the clocks as the approaching tropical storm Elsa could further complicate the situation.

"The fear was that [Elsa] may take the building down for us and take it down in the wrong direction,'' Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

Elsa on the way? 

On Saturday, Elsa was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph).

Elsa brushed past the island of Hispaniola, home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. 

A satellite image shows Hurricane Elsa over the Lesser Antilles and approaching the Caribbean Sea
Hurricane Elsa was approaching the Caribbean Sea on FridayImage: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES/REUTERS

According to the long-term forecast, Elsa will be heading toward Florida as a tropical storm by Tuesday morning. 

Weather officials warned that it could bring heavy rain and gusty winds to the Miami area.

"So we can't let our guard down," National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Molleda said. "You still need to be watching this very closely.''

fb/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)