Crews had halted their search for survivors of the Champlain Towers South collapse out of safety concerns.,
Rescue work resumed in Surfside after hours of delay over concerns that the whole building could fall.
Rescue Teams Pause Search Over Building Structure Concern
Officials in Surfside, Fla., have halted their search for survivors in the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium due to concern that the rest of the structure could collapse.
“Last night, there was issues with the remaining structure, and our state assets are being provided to Miami-Dade in terms of engineering know-how, so that they can look to see what their options are to handle this. Obviously, we believe that a — continuing searching is something that’s very, very important.” “As many of you have already seen, we were forced to halt operations on the collapse in the early hours of the morning due to structural concerns about the standing structure. We’re doing everything we can to ensure that the safety of our first responders is paramount, and to continue our search-and-rescue operation as soon as it is safe to do so. I want to stress that President Biden’s visit today will have no impact on what happens at this site. The search-and-rescue operation will continue as soon as it is safe to do so. The only reason for this pause is concerns about the standing structure.” “The stop in operations was based on the subject matter experts of several on-site structural engineers. Concerns assessors included 6 to 12 inches of movement and a large column hanging from the structure that could fall and cause damage to the support columns and the subterranean garage area. Slight movement in the concrete floor slabs on the south side of the structure near the north and south corner of the building … … that could cause additional failure of the building.”
Officials in Surfside, Fla., have halted their search for survivors in the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium due to concern that the rest of the structure could collapse.CreditCredit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times
Rescue crews resumed their search for survivors of the Champlain Towers South collapse on Thursday evening, a decision announced nearly 16 hours after work was halted out of concern that the rest of the building could also fall.
The pause of the search, which came the same day President Biden visited the area and spent three hours with affected families, further imperiled the chances of finding any survivors in the rubble. Eighteen people are known to have died in the collapse in Surfside, Fla., and as many as 145 people remain missing, numbers that have remained unchanged since Wednesday.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said that structural engineers had determined that the remaining structure was safe enough for emergency medical workers to resume the search at about 4:45 p.m.
“We will continue to search feverishly,” she said, adding that officials were planning for the eventual demolition of the remaining structure.
The northeast portion of the building, facing the beach, fell to the ground last week, while other units were left standing. But after days of intensive searches, the scene appeared quiet on Thursday morning, with cranes frozen above the rubble.
“They’re working in a very, very unsafe environment,” said Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, who described the initial concerns as a large hanging column that threatened to destabilize the remaining structure, as well as movement in concrete slabs and the debris pile. “I couldn’t pinpoint it to one specific incident.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said Thursday morning that state engineers had been sent to help devise a plan to safely resume the search. Adding to the urgency, the state is also bracing for possible impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa in the coming days.
“Obviously, we believe that continuing searching is something that’s very, very important,” Mr. DeSantis said before rescuers returned to the site.
Authorities said they were making contingency plans for Tropical Storm Elsa, the fifth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which formed on Thursday and remains hundreds of miles away from Barbados and other islands. The National Hurricane Center has said it is still too soon to determine what effect the storm might have on Florida. The storm could bring heavy rainfall Sunday evening, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
For days, the search had progressed slowly. The bodies of two sisters, ages 4 and 10, were pulled from the rubble on Wednesday as the known death toll rose to 18. Lucia Guara, 10, and her sister, Emma Guara, 4, were among four victims identified by the authorities on Wednesday evening, along with their mother, Anaely Rodriguez, 42. Rescue workers also found the body of Andreas Giannitsopoulos, 21.
“Any loss of life, especially given the unexpected, unprecedented nature of this event is a tragedy,” Mayor Cava, visibly emotional, said at a Wednesday news conference. “But the loss of our children is too great to bear.”
The collapse has also prompted a review of building integrity in South Florida.
Owners of buildings that are more than 30 years old and taller than three stories high should hire engineers to analyze their property for the 40-year recertification, Surfside’s building official said in a letter that was hand-delivered to property owners on Thursday. The city also asked property owners to hire a registered geotechnical engineer to analyze the properties’ foundation and subsurface soils.