, Fla. (AP) — Explosives were set off late Sunday to bring down the damaged remaining portion of a collapsed South Florida condo
building, a critical step toward resuming the search for victims as rescuers may gain access to new areas of the rubble.
Crews were to begin clearing some of the new debris so that rescuers could begin making their way into parts of the underground garage that are of particular interest. Once there, rescuers hope to gain access for the first time to parts of the garage area that are of particular interest, according to Miami-Dade Assistant Fire
Chief Raide Jadallah.
The precarious, still-standing portion of a collapsed South Florida condo building was rigged with explosive charges and set for demolition
overnight, Miami-Dade County
officials said late Sunday, putting the search-and-rescue mission on hold, but officials said it will open up new areas for rescue teams to explore.
Rescuers will wait for the “all-clear” after the demolition before resuming their search for survivors buried beneath the rubble, according to County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava
, who previously stated that the search could resume between 15 minutes and an hour after the detonation.
“We are ready to go in at any time,” Levine Cava said at a press conference Sunday night.
Search efforts have been halted since Saturday afternoon to allow workers to drill holes for explosives. Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah previously stated that up to 210 rescuers will be ready to resume the search as soon as the site is declared safe following the explosion
#BREAKING:The remaining Champlain Tower South
structure has been demolished. pic.twitter.com/jvom1ctBkA — WSVN 7 News
(@wsvn) July 5, 2021
The demolition of the building was a top priority for Levine Cava on Sunday.
“Bringing this building down in a controlled manner is critical to expanding the scope of our search-and-rescue effort,” she said at a press conference.
Before the demolition, officials evacuated residents near the site and warned others to stay indoors and close windows, doors, and any other openings that could allow dust to enter.
So far, 24 people
's remains have been recovered, with 121 still missing; no one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the June 24 collapse, but officials have pledged to keep looking despite the dwindling chance of finding survivors.
“Nobody in charge is really talking about stopping this rescue effort,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett
said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “This rescue effort, as far as I’m concerned, will go on until everybody is pulled out of that debris.”
Concerns had grown that the damaged Champlain Towers South
building in Surfside was at risk of collapsing on its own, endangering the crews below and preventing them from operating in some areas, and the approach of Tropical Storm Elsa
added urgency to the demolition project. The latest forecasts have moved the storm westward, mostly sparing South Florida, but meteorologists have warned that the area could still be impacted.
After the structure is gone and its remnants cleared, rescuers should have access for the first time to parts of the garage area that are a focus of interest, according to Jadallah, which could provide a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble.
State officials said they hired the BG Group, a general contractor based in Delray Beach, Florida, to lead the demolition; it was unclear how the company was chosen, but the state agreed to pay the company $935,000.
According to a spokesperson for the state's Division of Emergency Management, the company is subcontracting with Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., which experts say is one of only a handful of companies in the United States
that demolishes structures using explosives. According to the contract, the company was supposed to place explosives on the basement and lobby levels of the still-standing structure.
According to Jadallah, the goal of the detonation was to move the remaining portion of the building straight down and away from the existing pile of debris.
The demolition method is known as “energetic felling,” and it relies on gravity and small detonation devices to bring the building down in place, limiting the collapse to the immediate surroundings.
According to a spokesperson for the state's Division of Emergency Management, BG Group subcontracted with Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., one of only a few companies in the United States that uses explosives to demolish structures.
Calvan contributed reporting from Tallahassee, with assistance from Associated Press
writers Terry Spencer in Surfside, Florida, Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami, Florida, Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta
, and Ian Mader in Miami.