The damaged remaining portion of a collapsed South Florida apartment building has been demolished with explosives as rescuers try to reach new areas of the rubble in the search for victims.
After demolition crews set off the explosives a number of explosions could be heard and then the building started to fall, sending up massive plumes of dust into the air in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
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 hold survivors.
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 County mayor Levine Cava told a news conference earlier on Sunday evening.
No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the June 24 collapse.
Rescuers have recovered the remains of 24 people, with 121 still missing.
Rescuers are hoping the demolition will give them access for the first time to parts of the garage area that are a focus of interest.
Once a new pathway into the initial rubble is secure “we will go back to the debris pile, and we’ll begin our search and rescue efforts”, Miami-Dade Fire chief Albert Cominsky said.
The decision to demolish the Surfside building came after concerns mounted that the damaged structure was at risk of falling, endangering the crews below and preventing them from operating in some areas.
Parts of the remaining building shifted on Thursday, prompting a 15-hour suspension in the work, while an approaching tropical storm added urgency to the concerns on Sunday.