With Surfside tower demolished ahead of Elsa’s advance, search resumes; three more bodies found

By: - July 5, 2021 1:02 pm

Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, partially collapsed on June 24, 2021. A controlled demolition took down the rest of the structure on July 4. Credit: Wikipedia.

The search of the Champlain Towers South ruins in Surfside resumed within hours of the controlled demolition of the still-standing portion of the building on Sunday night, resulting in the recovery of three additional bodies.

Miami Dade County Mayor Danielle Levin Cava made those announcements during a news conference late Monday morning.

The recoveries brought the death count to 27, with 118 people believed to have been in the building when it collapsed on June 24 still unaccounted for.

Cava reported no damage to neighboring structures, although a cloud of dust spread through the neighborhood.

As for Elsa, the storm center was located near the south coast of Cuba on Monday morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Molleda said.

“Although the forecast has the center of the storm passing closer to the west coast of Florida, we will still feel some intermittent showers, especially tonight and tomorrow. And these showers and thunderstorms will have some brief but gusty winds — and these winds can still be quite strong across the area — as well as locally heavy rain and localized flooding possible. And even a possibility of one or two tornadoes across South Florida,” he said.

A tropical storm warning was in place for the Florida Keys, as well as tropical storm and storm surge watches for the Gulf Coast into the Big Bend, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. update.

Officials decided the structure had to come down through an “energetic felling “as soon as possible because of the approach of Tropical Storm Elsa, for fear its winds could send it crashing down on already searched rubble.

The charge fired at 10:30 p.m., the all-clear came around an hour later, and searching resumed at midnight, Cava said.

“Truly, we could not continue without bringing this building down. The area closest to the building was the area that we had not be able to access and that is where we needed to go because it was too unstable,” she said.

“This pile closest to the building was holding the building up and, so, it was not safe to do search activities on that part of the pile,” Cava said. “Apart from the impending storm, we wanted to move that building if we could safely do so so that we could gain access to that pile.”

Searchers retain hope that survivors may remain in voids within the rubble, she said, adding that workers may be called off “the pile” in case of winds above 30 miles per hour or lightning.

Cava took a moment to “acknowledge and reflect on the great tragedy that this has been for those who survived the building and have had to evacuate. The world is mourning for those who lost their loved ones and for those who are waiting for news from the collapse. To lose your home and all your belongings in this manner is a great loss as well, and my heart and deepest sympathies go out to all of the families who have had this tragedy.”

Amid continuing concern for pets that might have been left in the building before the demolition, Cava stressed that teams searched extensively for any animals under beds and in closets and used cranes and drones to view areas inaccessible otherwise — “at great personal risk to our first responders.” .

She added: “None of them were left [[pets] in the building prior to demolition.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.