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Crews prepare for demolition as storm nears

Crews prepare for demolition as storm nears
View of the partially collapsed residential building as rescue operations are stopped, in Surfside, Florida, 4 July 2021

Dozens of people are still missing following the collapse of the residential apartment building

The standing portion of a partially collapsed apartment block near Miami is set to be demolished over safety fears as a tropical storm approaches Florida.

Explosives are in place to bring down the remaining part of Champlain Towers South between 22:00 and 03:00 local time (02:00 and 07:00 GMT).

Search efforts will resume once the site is deemed safe, officials said.

Part of the 12-storey block collapsed on 24 June. Twenty-four people are known to have died and 121 are missing.

The remaining unstable structure, which does not contain any bodies, is being demolished to ensure the safety of search teams.

Earlier efforts to find possible survivors in the rubble following the initial collapse were suspended ahead of Sunday’s planned demolition.

The controlled demolition was brought forward after concerns were raised over the approaching Tropical Storm Elsa, which could reach Florida on Tuesday.

No survivors have been pulled from the rubble at the site in Surfside since the first few hours after the structure’s collapse.

On Sunday, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said there was a danger that strong winds in the coming days could bring down additional debris and endanger the lives of the search teams.

He said demolition experts could control how the structure falls, before adding that the explosion could “potentially open up a third of the pile [of rubble]” for emergency teams to access.

Workers clean the area of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Florida, 4 July 2021

The remaining unstable structure is being demolished to ensure the safety of search teams

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Cava Levine advised nearby residents to remain indoors and close their windows until at least two hours after the demolition is completed.

She said the operation was “critical to expand our scope of search – especially in the area closest to the building”.

Ms Cava Levine expressed sympathy for the families of the missing, adding that those who were forced to evacuate the remaining part of the building had “left their entire lives behind”.

No other buildings in the area needed to be evacuated, she said.

Ms Cava Levine said teams had been scouring the structure using drones with thermal imaging for any pets that may have been left behind.

“As soon as the building is down and it is safe, our first responders with resume their search efforts,” she told a press conference.

The families of the missing were told in advance of the decision to pause the search effort on Saturday as crews began preparations for the demolition.

Earlier on Sunday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said small holes were being drilled into the foundation of the building where explosive charges would be placed.

A man mourns at the memorial for victims of a partially collapsed residential building as the emergency crews continue the search and rescue operations for survivors, in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Florida, 2 July 2021

A memorial has been set up for victims of the partially collapsed residential building in Surfside

The mayor signed a demolition order on Friday. There are as yet no details about compensating the owners of the affected apartments.

Meanwhile, officials are investigating other tower blocks in the area for structural faults.

What caused the 40-year-old Champlain Towers South to crumble remains unclear. A 2018 inspection, however, warned of “major” design flaws in the original design.

The building association’s board has said it will appoint an “independent receiver… to oversee the legal and claims process”.

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Julia Mangels

Julia has handled various businesses throughout her career and has a deep domain knowledge. She founded Stock Market Pioneer in an attempt to bring the latest news to its readers. She is glued to the stock market most of the times and just loves being in touch with the developments in the business world.

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