As search and rescue operations at the site of a partial building collapse in Surfside, Florida, stretched into a tenth day Saturday, authorities announced they would pause operations to prepare for the likely demolition of what remains of the Champlain Towers South condo building.
“There is a threat to the standing building,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Saturday night, adding because of that, engineers and the demolition team paused operations around 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re waiting on instructions from the engineers … before we can safely resume,” she explained.
At least 24 people are confirmed dead in the collapse — with two victims pulled from the rubble Friday night. The victims include four- and ten-year-old sisters, an elderly couple, and the daughter of a firefighter.
Nicole Mejias told CNN Saturday that five of her family members were in the Champlain Towers South building when it collapsed, including 7-year-old Stella Cattarossi, the daughter of a Miami firefighter. Cattarossi’s body was found Thursday night.
“We just miss them so much already, we wish this tragedy didn’t happen, and will always remember them,” Mejias said.
As of Saturday evening, 121 people remained unaccounted for in the tragedy, while 191 have been accounted for, Levine Cava said.
Now officials continue to work around the clock to make sure the site is secured ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is tracking toward South Florida with heavy rain and strong winds expected to impact the coast late Sunday night into early Monday morning.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 15 counties on Saturday — including Miami-Dade county — due to Tropical Storm Elsa.
Tropical Storm watches have already been issued for parts of the Florida Keys and “additional watches are anticipated for Florida’s West Coast,” DeSantis said. “We’re preparing for the risk of isolated tornadoes, storm surge, heavy rainfall and flash flooding.”
“The state has begun executing contingency plans for the Tropical Storm Elsa and Surfside co-response,” he added.
Elsa was a Category 1 hurricane Friday and early Saturday but weakened to a tropical storm as it took aim at the Dominican Republic and Haiti. While the forecast remains uncertain for the continued track and intensity, the potential for weather-related issues at the collapse site is influencing authorities’ decisions on the ground.
“We’re still very hopeful that we can do the demolition before the storm,” Levine Cava explained. “We are proceeding as quickly as we possibly can.”
Officials don’t yet know the exact timing of the demolition. “Engineers are on site and they’re still conducting their due diligence, so we don’t have an exact time frame at this time,” Levine Cava said Saturday night.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, “The fear was that the hurricane may take the building down for us and take it down in the wrong direction, on top of the pile where we have victims.”
Burkett adding that the demolition “will allow rescue workers to pour all over the entire site without fear of any danger from falling debris or falling buildings.”
Chaim ben Sara
Malka bas Sara Rochel
Yisroel Tzvi Yosef ben Toiba
Tzvi Doniel ben Yehudis
Ita bas Miriam
Brad Cohen and his brother
Moshe ben Toba
Moshe ben Shoshana,
Arieh Leib nen Ita,
Ilan ben Kalman,
Leib ben Shoshana,
Sarah bas Ida,
Deborah bas Chaya
Yehuda Arye ben Feiga Rivka
Nicole bas Andrea
Esther bas Linda
Lein ben Ilana
Leibl ben Feigue Rivka
Ruth bas Sarah
Devorah bas Clara
Myriam and Arnie Notkin
Miriam bas Sara
Yaakov Reuvein Hacohen ben Devorah
Mikael ben Hans
Gabriela bas Sara
Linda bas Clara
Ilan ben Ronit
Ilan Naybryf and his mother Karen
Chaya Gila bas Yehudis
Esther bas Leah