Plans to demolish the upright section of the Miami apartment building that collapsed last week were brought forward following a tropical storm warning.
Authorities ordered the remaining standing portion of Champlain Towers South to be destroyed within days to reduce the risk of further collapses and allow rescuers to work at the site safely. Moreover, experts began investigations in other tower blocks to identify structural faults.
According to official figures, the number of victims has risen to 24, and 121 people are still missing since the 12-story building collapsed on June 24.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday that the upcoming demolition would protect search and rescue teams, adding: “We don’t know when it could fall over. With these gusts that would create a real severe hazard.” Storm Elsa, expected to hit Florida next week, has reached 120 km/h (75 mph).
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Cava Levine initially said she expected the demolition wouldn’t happen until late July.
However, she signed a demolition order on Friday. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett backed her decision, saying they feared the storm would topple the rest of the building and throw debris into the area where rescuers were still searching for survivors.
Experts in charge of the demolition, which will be controlled with explosive charges, drew up a plan on Saturday.
There are no details on compensation to homeowners yet, but the building association board says it would appoint an “independent receiver… to oversee the legal and claims process.” Meanwhile, reports obtained by the Miami Herald revealed that the association of owners of the Champlain Towers South Condominium had requested city approval to make major repairs to the building shortly before it collapsed.
However, the town’s construction department did not always respond, and Scott Stewart, the condo building manager, accused the city of “holding up” their plans.
After the information contained in those emails came to light, town manager Andrew Hyatt sent a statement to the media saying that the plans presented by the condo association were marked “preliminary” and seemed to be “outside the scope of any proposed 40-year re-certification work.”
“There was no indication during any communications between the Town and the association by telephone or electronic mail that this submission required emergency action by the Town of Surfside,” Hyatt said in the statement.
“The scope of work for repairs was not received until June 21, 2021, and not in the form of a building application. To date, no permit application for these specific repairs has been received by the town,” Hyatt added.
Representatives for the condo association have not yet responded to requests for comment.