Miami officials use explosives to demolish what’s left of collapsed condo tower as Tropical Storm Elsa approaches and Israeli colonel says there are NO survivors in the rubble with 121 still missing

  • Miami Dade County officials announced they were bringing down what remained of the building Sunday
  • It was an effort to resume rescue operations after they were suspended due to structural instability
  • So far rescuers have recovered the remains of 24 people, with 121 still missing
  • Miami-Dade officials said rescue efforts could resume as soon as 15 minutes after the demolition 
  • The demolition was carried out by Maryland-based company Controlled Demolition Inc.
  • Israeli search-and-rescue expert Col. Golan Vach, who has been working with local rescue teams, said on Sunday afternoon, however, that he was doubtful that any survivors remained in the rubble 
  • It came as Tropical Storm Elsa is scheduled to make landfall in Florida Tuesday night
  • The approaching storm had added urgency to the effort for fear it could knock down what remained of the building in an uncontrolled manner 

Demolition crews have set off explosives to bring down the damaged remaining portion of a collapsed South Florida condo.

The demolition Sunday night was key to resuming the search for victims of the June 24 collapse and is even expected to open new areas for rescue teams to work in. 

No one has been found alive since the first hours after the disaster. So far, rescuers have recovered the remains of 24 people, with 121 still missing. 

Crews were to begin clearing some of the new debris so rescuers could start making their way into parts of the underground garage that is of particular interest. Once there, they were hoping to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble and could possibly harbor survivors. 

On Sunday afternoon, however, Col. Golan Vach, an Israeli search-and-rescue operations expert who has been working at the site, said he was doubtful that further survivors would be found.   

Workers demolished what remained standing of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside on Sunday evening in a bid to open up further areas for rescue

So far, rescuers have recovered the remains of 24 people, with 121 still missing

Rescuers hope the demolition will open up areas such as parts of the garage section of the building for the first time

Officials initially believed it would take weeks to tear down the damaged building 

Officials made the announcement Saturday that they were bringing the building down out of fears it could collapse on its own

Search and rescue operations could resume in as soon as 15 minutes after the remaining structure was raised 

‘I believe right now that the chances are close to zero, unfortunately,’ Vach told reporters with Local 10. 

‘We are trying to be hopeful, but realistic at the same time,’ he said of conversations with families of the victims.  

Search efforts had been suspended Saturday to allow demolition workers to drill holes for the explosives needed to bring the damaged Surfside building down. 

Through the night, rescuers were awaiting the ‘all-clear’ after the demolition so they could dive back into the task of trying to locate any survivors buried under the rubble. Officials had previously said that the search could resume from 15 minutes to an hour after the detonation.

‘We are standing by. We are ready to go in, no matter the time of night,’ Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference earlier Sunday night.

Concerns had mounted that the damaged building was at risk of falling on its own. Parts of the remaining building shifted on Thursday, prompting a 15-hour suspension in the work. 

The approach of Tropical Storm Elsa added urgency to the demolition project.  

Officials first announced plans to bring the partially collapsed building down at a news conference on Saturday morning.  

The decision to raise the damaged building came as Tropical Storm Elsa bore down on the area

The demolition was carried out by Maryland-based company Controlled Demolition Inc

Stephanie Rioja prayed as the partially collapsed towers were demolished

Crowds watched the damaged building fall Sunday evening 

Levine Cava issued a State of Emergency Saturday for Tropical Storm Elsa and made the ‘dramatic decision’ to sign an emergency order to raise the building before the storm hits the area.  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during Saturday morning’s press conference that they wouldn’t let people who escaped go back and get their possessions before the demolition. 

‘At the end of the day, that building is too unsafe to let people go back in,’ DeSantis said. ‘I know there’s a lot of people who were able to get out, fortunately, who have things there. We’re very sensitive to that. But I don’t think that there’s any way you could let someone go back up into that building given the shape that it’s in now.’

In terms of the demolition, officials were told Friday evening that it would take weeks to safely tear down the remaining structure, but Cava said Saturday morning that the Maryland-based demolition company Controlled Demolition Inc. came forward the previous night. 

Controlled Demolition Inc. says on its website that it has demolished ‘thousands of structures across six continents using explosives.’  

The method of demolition is called ‘energetic felling,’ which uses small detonation devices and relies on the force of gravity. 

Levine Cava said that should bring the building down in place, containing the collapse to the immediate surroundings so as to minimally disturb the existing mound of debris — where scores of people are believed to be trapped. 

Levine Cava said they work fast, their engineers have studied the scene Saturday and said they could demolish the building before the storm impacts Southeast Florida.

Meteorologists predict the eye of the storm, which was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, won’t directly hit the area, but Surfside and the surrounding municipalities could feel the brunt of strong wind gusts.  

Elsa is scheduled to make landfall in Florida on Tuesday, according to meteorologists

The bulk of the storm is expected to run along the Florida’s west coast, although the area around Surfside could still feel its effects

While the Caribbean Islands are expected to be hit hardest, Florida officials fear the storm’s gusts would knock down the remaining structure ‘in a direction we don’t want it to go,’ Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. 

As of Sunday, AccuWeather forecasters say Elsa is most likely to enter the eastern Gulf of Mexico and approach Florida early next week. Southeast Florida will start to feel its effects Monday afternoon through the middle of the week. 

According to AccuWeather, Florida is expected to get enough rainfall to cause flooding along with damaging winds. 

The problem for the collapse site would be if the storm moves north, instead of continuing on its track along the Gulf Coast side of Florida. 

If it moves north, the rain and gusty winds would shift inland and batter sections along Florida’s southern shoreline, according to AccuWeather.

As of Sunday, the storm was predicted to make landfall north of Tampa and head along the west coast of Florida. 

A Miami-Dade County Police boat patrols in front of the Champlain Towers South condo building on Friday, shortly before officials made the decision to demolish the remaining structure with explosives 

 Workers transport a stretcher with remains extricated from the rubble on Friday, near the Champlain Towers South condo building, where 121 people remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed

The official cause of the June 24 collapse is under investigation. 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 needed extensive repairs. The report also found ‘abundant cracking’ of concrete columns, beams and walls in the parking garage.

Just two months before the building fell, the president of its board wrote a letter to residents saying that structural problems identified in the 2018 inspection had ‘gotten significantly worse’ and that major repairs would cost at least $15.5 million. 

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill visited the site and the makeshift memorial earlier this week and met with local and state officials in Florida, victims’ families and first responders. 

 ‘I promise you: I know. What you’re doing here is incredible,’ the president told first responders.

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