SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - While search and rescue efforts have resumed at the site of the partial condo building collapse in Surfside, the shift in debris that halted operations has led to restrictions in the area where crews are able to work.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed plans to demolish the part of Champlain Towers’ South building that remains standing.
“This is a decision that we need to make extremely carefully,” she said.
Officials provided the updates during a news conference held Thursday evening.
“We are analyzing the building, the debris and the pile. All that has to be constantly analyzed so we can proceed with rescue operations on the scene,” said Scott Nacheman, a structures specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Urban Search & Rescue Response.
Officials said equipment at the site detected movement that forced first responders to stop their rescue mission for their own safety, early Thursday morning.
“While it was determined the building itself had not moved, however, debris in the pile below the building, as well as debris on the building of significant size had displaced,” said Nacheman.
While search and rescue efforts have resumed after a 15-hour pause, there are restrictions based on the advice of structural engineers. Currently, teams can only work on three of the nine grids mapped out on the site of the building collapse.
“Our team of engineers are doing ongoing testing and evaluation as we work to expand the search area as quickly as possible, as it becomes safe to do so,” said Levine Cava.
As for plans to demolish the rest of the structure, officials said those decisions take time because they have to evaluate the conditions at the site and plan everything out so it doesn’t disrupt the momentum of first responders.
“If the building’s the problem, we need to get rid of the problem,” said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.
“Best case scenario, we’re looking at weeks before we can determine exactly what that definitive timeline is going to be,” said Nacheman.
As of Thursday night, 18 people are confirmed dead, 145 people have not been accounted for, and 139 people have been accounted for, officials said.
Emergency crews are also paying close attention to another possible threat, Hurricane Elsa, and the impact it could have on South Florida and the search.
“There remains much uncertainty on the track and intensity for Elsa, but it is possible that there could be some rainfall, wind and storm surge impacts to South Florida,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.
As local and state officials continue to prepare, they said residents should also take steps to make sure their homes are secure.
“We are accustomed to running three or more disasters at the same time with our state emergency response team, and they stand ready to serve multiple disasters,” said Guthrie.
Members of the National Weather Service will be at the site on Friday to meet with officials to discuss Tropical Storm Elsa.
Miami-Dade Police detectives are asking for the community’s help. Anyone who was at the site the morning of the collapse and has pictures or videos is asked to call the Surfside Collapse Witness Tip Line at 305-428-4417 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.