The demolition plan consisted of strategically placed small detonations, using a technique known as "energetic demolition."
Nearly eleven days after a large swath of a South Florida condo suddenly collapsed, burying dozens of people and devastating the united city of Surfside, demolition crews detonated the remaining portion of the building Sunday, which, according to authorities, it was unstable and potentially dangerous as Tropical Storm Elsa approaches the region.
What was left of Champlain Towers South had for days hampered massive search and rescue efforts by authorities, which at one point stopped for 15 hours? The demolition was initially thought to take weeks until increasingly urgent forecasts indicated that Elsa could hit the area with strong winds and torrential rains.
Officials were concerned that violent winds would collapse the remaining building onto the pile of rubble, further burying possible survivors and bodies. So at 10:30 PM Miami time Sunday, an emergency team activated strategically placed charges and brought down the structure, generating a cloud of dust, an eerily familiar sight to a community still mourning the loss of loved ones and shattered lives. .
The demolition plan consisted of strategically placed small detonations, using a technique known as "energetic demolition," which relies on the force of gravity to topple the building. The procedure caused it to collapse in place, containing the collapse to the immediate surroundings.
"We urge residents who live in the refuge-in-place area - between 86th and 89th Street and Abbott Avenue and the waterfront - to stay indoors from now on," Miami Police warned a few hours earlier. And, in addition, they recommended closing all windows, doors, and air intakes, covering any other opening that could allow dust to enter apartments, houses, or buildings, and putting the air conditioning on recirculation.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava explained that she hopes that work will resume as soon as it is safe to do so. Firefighters will then inspect parts of the site that were previously inaccessible, he said. "It's important to expand the scope of search and rescue efforts and allow us to find the area closest to the building," Levine Cava told a news conference Sunday before the demolition.
The instability of the complex and its destruction were the last challenges for a search that rainstorms, lightning, and fires had already complicated. Emergency personnel halted the operation on Saturday and Sunday as the site was being prepared for demolition. Since the hours after the collapse, no one has been found alive. As of Sunday night, 24 people had been confirmed dead, and 121 were missing.
Elsa, which weakened as a hurricane over the weekend and was forecast to hit Florida late Monday through Tuesday, could force another search suspension, the mayor said. "We pray that the impacts of the storm on Surfside are limited, and we can continue unimpeded," he added.
If she doesn't weaken the effort, Elsa may ultimately be "a blessing in disguise," said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett, speeding up the building's demolition and making way for larger teams of rescuers. It could clear nearly a third of the site that was previously inaccessible, he said. "This demolition will open wide all par the area," Burkett said on the show Face the Nation of CBS News on Sunday morning. And we will be able to put resources on this pile. We are launching a major attack on it, and we are going to try to evacuate these victims and reunite them with their families.
Burkett stressed that authorities are maintaining a rescue mindset and are approaching the mission, which will primarily involve the search for bodies, rather than moving towards recovery.
"This is not at all a recovery effort," Burkett said, recalling the case of a woman in Bangladesh who survived for 17 days buried under a collapsed factory. "We are not even close to that. And there is no one in command who is talking about stopping this rescue effort. And this rescue effort, as far as I'm concerned, will continue until everyone is pulled out of that rubble.