Surfside, Florida (AFP) – Demolition crews detonated explosives late Sunday to bring down the damaged remaining portion of a collapsed South Florida apartment building, a major step for resuming the search for victims as rescuers will likely be able to access areas of new from the rubble. .
Crews were to begin removing some of the new debris so that rescuers could begin making their way to parts of the underground garage of particular importance. Once there, rescuers hope to be able to gain access for the first time to parts of the garage area that get the most attention, said Ray Gadallah, the Miami-Dade’s assistant fire chief. This could give a clearer picture of voids that might be in the rubble and could harbor survivors.
Miami-Dade County officials said late Sunday that an unstable portion of a collapsed apartment building in South Florida has been rigged with improvised explosive devices and is due to be demolished overnight. Work has suspended the search and rescue mission, but officials said it will open up new areas for rescue teams to explore.
Daniela Levin Cava, the county’s mayor, said rescuers would wait for “everything clear” after the demolition, then immediately return to the task of trying to locate any survivors buried under the rubble. Officials previously said the search could resume 15 minutes to an hour after the bombing.
“We are standing. We are ready to enter no matter what time of night,” Levin Cava told a news conference on Sunday evening.
Search efforts have been suspended since Saturday afternoon to allow workers to dig holes for explosives. Miami-Dade assistant chief firefighter Ryde Gadallah said earlier that up to 210 rescuers would prepare to resume the search once the site was declared safe after the explosion.
On Sunday, Levine Cava said demolishing the building is a top priority.
“The controlled demolition of this building is critical to expanding our search and rescue efforts,” she said at a press conference.
Officials had evacuated residents around the site before the demolition and warned others to stay indoors and to close windows, doors and any other openings that might allow dust to enter.
Rescuers have so far recovered the remains of 24 people, and 121 are still missing. No one has been rescued alive since the early hours after the June 24 crash, but officials have vowed to continue the search despite the dwindling chance of finding survivors.
“There’s no one in charge talking about stopping these rescue efforts,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “These rescue efforts as far as I’m concerned will continue until everyone is cleared of this wreck.”
Concerns were growing that the damaged Champlain Towers South building in Surfside was in danger of collapsing on its own, endangering crews below and preventing them from working in some areas. Tropical Storm Elsa’s approach added urgency to the demolition project. The latest forecast moved the storm west, mostly avoiding southern Florida, but meteorologists said the area was still feeling the effects as of Monday.
Jadallah said the suspension of search efforts was necessary during excavation work prior to demolition because it could cause the structure to malfunction. Once the structure has been removed and its remains cleared, rescuers should be able to gain first access to parts of the garage area that get the most attention, Gadallah said. This could give a clearer picture of voids that might be in the rubble and could harbor survivors.
State officials said they have hired BG Group, a general contractor based in Delray, Florida, to lead the demolition. It was not immediately known how the company was selected, but the contract for the projects calls on the state to pay 935,000 dollars to the company.
A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Emergency Management said the company is subcontracting Maryland-based Controlled Demolition, which experts say is among the few companies in the United States that demolish structures with explosives. The company was supposed to place explosives in the basement and hallway of the still standing structure, according to the work contract.
Jadallah said the bombing was intended to demolish the remainder of the building directly toward the street, away from the existing pile of rubble.
The method of demolition is called “active cutting”, which uses small detonators and relies on the force of gravity. It was expected to demolish the building in place, and contain the collapse in its immediate surroundings.
A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Emergency Management said BG Group has subcontracted Maryland-based Controlled Demolition, which experts say is among the few companies in the United States that demolish structures using explosives.