Family members of people missing in the rubble of a collapsed apartment block in Miami have been told that demolition workers will bring down the remainder of the building on Sunday.
Worries have intensified over the past week that the damaged structure could fall down on its own, endangering the fire and rescue crews below and complicating the search for victims.
Fire Rescue assistant fire chief Raide Jadallah told family members during a morning briefing that the building would be brought down “as soon as possible. First thing tomorrow”.
Over a week ago, our community was impacted by a devastating tragedy. Since then, #MDFR #FLTF1 along with 7 task forces from throughout Florida and the Israeli Task Force have worked to remove debris in order to find survivors from the Champlain Towers building collapse. pic.twitter.com/4rO9fqILApAdvertisement
— Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (@MiamiDadeFire) July 3, 2021
But he cautioned that there “may be some hiccups”.
A follow-up meeting will be held in the afternoon to finalise details of the demolition, which could be a precarious operation as experts enter the building to bore into the structure to install explosives.
Concerns that the still-standing portion could tumble have curtailed the search in areas close to that section, and shifts detected by monitors early Thursday prompted a 15-hour suspension of the entire search until engineers determined the site was safe to restart.
Mr Jadallah said the remnants of the demolished building would be removed immediately after, with the intention of giving rescuers access for the first time to parts of the garage area that is a focus of the search.
Such access could give officials a clearer picture of the voids that might exist in the rubble and could possibly harbour survivors.
No-one has been rescued since the first hours after the June 24 collapse.
The approach of Hurricane Elsa from the Caribbean Sea also raises concerns that strong winds possible in South Florida by late Sunday or early Monday could further destabilise the standing portion of the towers.
The confirmed death toll from the collapse of the building on June 24 stood at 24 early Saturday.
Officials reduced the number of missing from 145 to 126 after duplicate names were eliminated and some residents reported missing turned up safe.
The demolition of the building would temporarily suspend search operations, but officials hope not for long.
Some families asked to be able to return to the building to retrieve personal belongings, but will not be allowed to do so.