A sad family awaits at the site while a team of rescue workers work during a rescue operation of the Champlain Tower, which partially collapsed on June 30, 2021 in Surfside, Florida, USA.
Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Search and rescue operations in a Florida condo collapse resumed Thursday after a one-day shutdown, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference Thursday evening.
The decision to resume operations was made around 4:45 p.m. Thursday after civil engineers said conditions were safe enough, Levine Cava said. Operations were suspended Thursday morning over concerns that the rest of the building could collapse.
“I am grateful for your hard work in getting us back to search and rescue as quickly as possible,” said Levine Cava. “Of course, we continue to assure that we are doing everything we can to protect our first aiders.”
The death toll remained unchanged through Thursday, with 18 confirmed deaths and 145 missing, according to Levine Cava.
While search and rescue is the authorities’ top priority, plans to demolish the building are currently underway, Levine Cava told reporters.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue chief Alan Cominsky said all task force leaders, division group leaders, and heavy equipment operators had been briefed of a search resumption plan with security measures.
Authorities are restricting access to parts of the collapse zone that raise safety concerns, Levine Cava said. Technologies such as cameras and drones are used to search inaccessible areas of the building.
A team of engineers are also conducting tests and evaluations to safely expand the search area, she added.
Levine Cava and other authorities also thanked President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for visiting Surfside early Thursday, noting that Biden offered comfort to families affected by the collapse.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida emergency management department, added that Biden has pledged to cover 100% of reimbursements for local governments facing deficits due to the breakdown.
Emergency Management Director Charles Cyrille also briefed on Tropical Storm Elsa, which continues to move rapidly through the Caribbean Sea. Cyrille told reporters that the State Department of Emergency Management continues to monitor the storm and that contingency plans are in place.
Cyrille said “Miami-Dade County is not in imminent danger,” but urged citizens to be prepared with disaster packages and evacuation plans.
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Cominsky, the chief of the fire department, said the decision to cease operations Thursday morning was based on “additional concerns about building stability” identified by subject matter experts.
These concerns included 15 to 12 inches of movement, a large pillar hanging from the building that could fall and damage the support columns in the underground car park, and slight movement in the concrete floor slabs on the south side of the structure that “could lead to additional failure” . of the building, “says Cominsky.
In the last few days there have been increasing indications that the 40-year-old apartment building had already suffered considerable structural damage in 2018.
A newly discovered video, captured the night of the collapse, shows water pouring into the Champlain Towers parking garage.
On Wednesday evening, the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced it had launched a federal investigation into the causes of the building collapse.
“We are going in with an open mind,” said Judith Mitrani-Reiser, deputy head of the materials and support systems department at NIST, at a press conference near the collapse site on Wednesday.
“Whenever a building collapses, we want to understand how the building was designed, built, modified and maintained,” she said.
Several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the victims’ families, some of which are still missing.
But the question of who, if anything, was responsible for the breakdown is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.
James Olthoff, the director of NIST, told the Miami Herald the federal investigation will not attempt to assign the blame for the collapse.
“This is a kind of fact-finding, not troubleshooting, type of investigation,” he told the Herald. “It will take time, possibly a few years.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correctly describe Tropical Storm Elsa.