Four more bodies have been found in Surfside, Florida, after the standing portion of Champlain Towers South was demolished Sunday night, allowing rescuers access to new areas.
That brings the total number of dead to 28 after the high-rise condo suddenly collapsed 12 days ago. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Monday morning that 117 people remain unaccounted for.
About half of the building’s 136 apartments were destroyed in the collapse. The portion that remained standing was being held up by some of the rubble, said Cava, making it unsafe for rescuers to search that area.
On Sunday at 10:30 p.m., the standing part of the tower was brought down in a controlled demolition. Cava said that by 1 a.m., teams were able to resume their search.
“The demolition was in no way a decision that I made lightly,” said Cava.
“As we speak, the teams are working on that part of the pile that was not accessible.”
Officials announced on Monday morning that the three additional bodies were found in that area, with a fourth victim confirmed later in the day.
There was concern from residents that pets might have still been alive in the part of the tower that was demolished. NBC 6 reported that some residents filed a motion to delay the demolition, with one saying they were willing to search the building themself. A judge denied the request.
Cava said teams “took every action that we possibly could” to search for pets prior to the demolition. She said rescuers searched units where they were able, looking under beds, in closets, and at other potential hiding spots. In other areas, traps, drones, and thermal imaging were used.
“I want to say as clearly as I possibly can, and urge our community to understand, that we went truly to great lengths to take every step that we could, at great risk to our first responders, to ensure that all of the pets that were beloved family members — that none of them were left in the building prior to the demolition,” said Cava.
The city also gave an update on Tropical Storm Elsa, expected to reach Florida’s west coast this week. It’s expected to bring wind and rain to the area, with the possibility of localized flooding and tornadoes in South Florida.
Cava said the search will continue unless winds exceed 30 mph or there is lightning.
“Obviously, the longer we go, the harder it is,” she said.