Collapsed Florida condo demolished, search and rescue to resume

Damaged remaining portion of the collapsed Florida apartment block demolished as rescuers prepare to resume searching for victims.

Demolition crews have set off explosives to bring down the remaining portion of a partially collapsed apartment building in South Florida, where 24 people have been confirmed dead and 121 remain missing.

Video footage late on Sunday showed the 12-storey Champlain Towers South in Surfside, outside Miami, being demolished – 10 days after most of the building collapsed in the early hours of June 24 while residents were asleep.

Search-and-rescue efforts for the missing have been suspended, but Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescuers would immediately get back to the task of trying to locate any survivors buried under the rubble as soon as they received the “all clear”.

“We are standing by. We are ready to go in, no matter the time of night,” Levine Cava told a news conference on Sunday night.

No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the June 24 collapse.

Rescuers are hoping the demolition will give them access for the first time to parts of the garage area that are a focus of interest, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said. That could give a clearer picture of any voids in the rubble that could harbour survivors.

Officials had evacuated residents around the site in advance of the demolition and warned others to stay indoors and close windows, doors and any other openings that could allow dust in.

The decision to demolish the apartment building came after concerns mounted that the damaged structure was at risk of falling, endangering the crews below and preventing them from operating in some areas. Parts of the remaining building shifted on Thursday, prompting a 15-hour suspension in the work.

The possible arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa created added urgency.

As of Sunday afternoon, the storm was off the coast of Cuba with winds of 60 miles per hour (95km/h). The latest forecasts have moved the storm westwards, mostly sparing South Florida, but National Hurricane Center meteorologist Robert Molleda said the area could still feel the effects.

“We’re expecting primarily tropical storm force gusts,” Molleda said, referring to gusts above 40 mph (64km/h).

Instead of the usual fireworks and flag-waving parties, beachside communities in the area have planned more subdued events for the Fourth of July. Miami Beach cancelled its Independence Day celebrations.

Investigators have not determined what caused the 40-year-old complex to collapse on June 24. A 2018 engineering report found structural deficiencies that are now the focus of inquiries.

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