High-rise demolition in Florida opens up fresh rubble in search for survivors

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High-Rise Demolition In Florida Opens Up Fresh Rubble In Search For Survivors
Building Collapse Miami, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Rebecca Santana and Adriana Gomez Licon, Associated Press

Rescuers are searching through fresh rubble after the last of the collapsed Florida apartment building was demolished, allowing crews into previously inaccessible places, officials said.

Three more victims were discovered in the new pile, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members, raising the death toll to 27 people.

Another 118 people remain unaccounted for.

The demolition late on Sunday was crucial to the search-and-rescue effort, officials said, and raised the prospect that crews could increase the pace of their work and the number of searchers at the site, although the chances of finding survivors 12 days after the June 24 collapse has diminished.


Teams had been unable to access areas closest to the remaining structure because of its instability, Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

“Truly we could not continue without bringing this building down,” she said at a news conference.

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Florida governor Ron DeSantis said the newly accessible area includes bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping when the building collapsed.

“We will be able to access every part of that pile, which they hadn’t been able to do up to this point,” Mr DeSantis said. “I think it’s going to move the pace. I think the momentum is very strong.”

Crews could be seen climbing a mound of debris at the site on Monday alongside a piece of heavy equipment picking up rubble.


Rescuers search for victims (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/AP)

Workers immediately began clearing some of the new debris after the demolition so rescuers could start making their way into parts of the underground garage that is of particular interest.

Officials said the search effort resumed around midnight. It had been called off on Saturday to allow specialists to drill holes for explosives needed for the demolition.

“As a result of the contractor who brought it down, he did it in such a way that literally we actually were back on the original pile in less than 20 minutes,” Mr Jadallah told family members of those missing, drawing applause in a rare upbeat moment for the twice-daily meetings.

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Rescuers hope to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble as they search for those believed to be trapped under the fallen wing of Champlain Towers South.

No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse.

Ms Levine Cava told the Associated Press the demolition went “exactly as planned”.


“It was picture-perfect. Exactly what we were told would happen,” she said.

“The world is mourning for those who lost their loved ones and for those who are waiting for news from the collapse,” she said at the news conference. “To lose your home and all your belongings in this manner is a great loss as well.”

The decision to demolish the remnants of the building came after concerns mounted that the damaged structure was at risk of falling, endangering the crews below. Parts of the remaining building shifted on Thursday, prompting a 15-hour suspension in the work.

Approaching Tropical Storm Elsa added urgency to the demolition plans, as forecasts suggested the system could bring strong winds.

President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Florida because of the storm, making federal aid possible.

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