Miami, Jul 5 (EFE).- The confirmed death toll from the partial collapse of a 12-story residential building north of Miami Beach on June 24 has grown to 27, the Miami-Dade County mayor said Monday.
“Since the first responders were able to resume their work on the collapse last night, we have very sadly recovered three additional victims,” Daniella Levine Cava told reporters.
Search and rescue teams suspended their activity ahead of Sunday night’s controlled demolition of the remaining portion of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.
“Please join me in praying for those who lost their lives and the families who mourn and for all of those who are still waiting,” the mayor said, referring to the loved ones of another 118 people who remains unaccounted for.
Authorities have been able to determine that 191 other people thought to have been in the building at the time of collapse are alive and well.
The operation to bring down what was left of the building was “executed exactly as planned,” Levine Cava said.
“The demolition began at 10:30 pm (02:30 GMT Monday). And the building fell as was planned,” she said. “Only dust landed on the existing pile.”
First responders were “in full search and rescue operation mode” again by 1:00 am Monday, the mayor said, emphasizing that the teams took every possible precaution before the demolition went forward.
“Bringing the building down in a controlled manner was critical to expanding our scope of search,” the mayor said. “And as we speak, the teams are working on that part of the pile that was not accessible before the building was demolished.”
The search had to be suspended for 15 hours last Wednesday due to due to fears that the surviving section of the 40-year-old building might collapse and the idea of taking down the rest of the structure was given impetus by the possibility that Tropical Storm Elsa would bring high winds to the area.
Though the latest forecast calls for Elsa to pass near Florida’s southwest coast, the southeastern part of the state may still experience significant wind gusts from thunderstorms generated by the system, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Molleda said Monday.
Efforts to determine the cause of the disaster will “continue over a long period of time,” the Miami-Dade County mayor said. “It’s very complicated.”
Specialists from the US government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been working at the site, she said.
NIST personnel explored “every part of the building that they had access to” and extensively photographed the structure prior to the controlled demotion,” Levine Cava said.
Within days of the partial collapse, the Surfside municipal government published a 2018 report from engineering consultants documented structural problems at Champlain Towers South.
An attorney representing the homeowners association said that repairs to address those problems were set to begin later this year.