, Fla. (AP) — Florida
officials are planning to demolish what remains of a partially collapsed oceanfront condominium building after concerns about the structure's stability forced a 15-hour halt to the search for survivors.
Officials said Thursday evening that they had begun planning for the demolition of the remaining structure, even as searchers continued to comb the rubble pile beneath it.
structures specialist Scott Nacheman stated that engineers are considering various demolition methods and how to proceed "to make the site safe for ongoing rescue
Nacheman stated that if the building is demolished, the rescue operation will initially be slowed; however, he stated that the demolition of the structure will create a safer working environment
, allowing more personnel on the site and speeding up the pace of the work.
He stated that the demolition would most likely take several weeks.
Authorities announced the recovery of two more bodies on Friday, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, bringing the total number of fatalities to 20, with 128 still missing.
No one has been rescued since the 12-story Champlain Towers South
condominium collapsed in the early morning hours.
On Friday morning, a dozen workers could be seen digging through the pile, which had grown to about 20 feet (6 meters), down from more than 10 feet (3 meters) a week before. Cranes were once again lifting heavy objects from the pile, and workers would climb into the pile and begin removing smaller rubble by hand.
Miami-Dade County Mayor
Daniella Levine Cava stated that the demolition decision must be made "extremely carefully and methodically," taking into account the potential impact
on the debris pile and the impact on the search.
The rescue mission was called off early Thursday after crews discovered widening cracks and up to a foot of movement in a large column.
Cava said that work resumed shortly before 5 p.m. after structural engineers evaluated the site, and that firefighters
were "really, really excited out there."
“We will continue to search feverishly, as we have in the parts of the collapse that we currently have access to,” she said.
The work halt had threatened to dampen hopes of finding anyone alive in the wreckage a week after the tower fell. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the halt was concerning because "minutes and hours matter, lives are at stake."
The temporary halt in rescue efforts occurred on the same day that President Joe Biden
and First Lady Jill Biden
visited the devastated community.
“This is life and death
,” Biden said during a press conference, adding, “We can do it; just the simple act of everyone doing what needs to be done makes a difference.”
“There will be a lot of pain, anxiety, suffering, and even the need for psychological help in the days and months that follow,” he said, adding, “And so, we're not going anywhere.”
Marcus Guara's cousin, Peter Milián, died along with his wife
, Anaely Rodriguez, and their two children
, Lucia Guara, 10, and Emma Guara, 4. Milián said he understood why the rescue efforts had to be temporarily halted.
“I mean, they’ve done everything they can, but we trust the people
on the ground, and obviously, they have to do what’s best for their people, right? Because it’s a dangerous situation,” he explained.
During a private meeting with family
members, Biden tried to comfort them by drawing on his own experiences with grief
. Biden lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car accident
, and an adult son to brain cancer
“I just wish there was something I could do to alleviate the pain,” he said in a video posted on Instagram
by Jacqueline Patoka, a woman who knew a couple and their daughter who are still missing.
Biden expressed a desire to swap places with a loved one who has died or gone missing, saying, "The waiting, the waiting is unbearable."
A 2018 engineering report found that the building's ground-floor pool deck was resting on a concrete slab that had "major structural damage" and required extensive repairs, as well as "abundant cracking" of concrete columns, beams, and walls in the parking
Just two months before the building collapsed, the president of the building's board wrote a letter to residents stating that structural problems identified in the 2018 inspection had "gotten significantly worse" and that major repairs would cost at least $15.5 million. With bids for the work still pending, the building collapsed last Thursday.
This article was contributed to by Associated Press
writers Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale
, Florida, and Mark Kennedy in New York