Explosives bring down rest of South Florida collapsed condo

Jul 3, 2021, 9:01 PM | Updated: Jul 5, 2021, 12:17 am
Demolition teams bring down the unstable remainder of the Champlain Towers South condo building, la...

Demolition teams bring down the unstable remainder of the Champlain Towers South condo building, late Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. The work to demolish the remains had suspended the search-and-rescue mission, but officials said Sunday it should eventually open up new areas for rescue teams to explore. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Demolition crews set off explosives late Sunday that brought down the damaged remaining portion of a collapsed South Florida condo building, a key step to resuming the search for victims as rescuers seek access to new areas of the rubble.

A loud rat-at-tat of explosions echoed from the structure just before 10:30 p.m. Then the building began to fall, one floor after another, cascading into an explosion of dust. Plumes billowed into the air, as crowds watched the scene from afar.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told the Associated Press after the demolition that crews had been given the all-clear to resume their search-and-rescue mission to locate the 121 people believed to be missing under a wing of the Champlain Tower South that collapsed June 24. So far, rescuers have recovered the remains of 24 people. No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse.

On Sunday, Miami-Dade police identified David Epstein, 58, as one of the two dozen people known to have perished in the fallen tower. His remains were recovered Friday.

The demolition went “exactly as planned,” she said. “It was picture perfect. Exactly what we were told would happen.”

Crews were to begin clearing some of the new debris so rescuers could start making their way into parts of the underground garage that is of particular interest. Once there, they were hoping to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble and could possibly harbor survivors.

Levine Cava expressed relief that the search for victims can now continue, after being suspended on Saturday so workers could begin rigging the damaged but still-upright portion of the the partly-collapsed tower with explosives — a precarious operation that could have caused the structure to fail.

“I feel relief because this building was unstable. The building was hampering our search efforts,” Levine Cava said.

Rescuers are hoping the demolition will give them access for the first time to parts of the garage area that are a focus of interest. Once a new pathway into the initial rubble is secure, “we will go back to the debris pile, and we’ll begin our search and rescue efforts,” Miami-Dade Fire Chief Albert Cominsky said.

The decision to demolish the remnants of the Surfside building came after concerns mounted that the damaged structure was at risk of falling, endangering the crews below and preventing them from operating in some areas. Parts of the remaining building shifted on Thursday, prompting a 15-hour suspension in the work. An approaching storm also added urgency to the concerns.

“I truly believe … that the family members recognize and appreciate that we are proceeding in the best possible fashion to allow us to do the search that we need to do,” Levine Cava said.

Residents in the area were told to stay inside until two hours after the blast to avoid the dust raised by the implosion. Local authorities had gone door-to-door to advise them of the timing, and to ask them to keep windows closed.

Approaching Tropical Storm Elsa has added urgency to the demolition plans with forecasts suggesting there could be strong winds in the area by Monday. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Florida because of the storm, making federal aid possible.

The latest forecasts have moved the storm westward, mostly sparing South Florida, but National Hurricane Center meteorologist Robert Molleda said the area could still feel effects.

“We’re expecting primarily tropical storm force gusts,” Molleda said, referring to gusts above 40 mph (64 kph).

The method used for Sunday night’s demolition is called “energetic felling,” which uses small detonation devices and relies on the force of gravity. Levine Cava, speaking ahead of the demolition, said that should bring the building down in place, containing the collapse to the immediate surroundings so as to minimally disturb the existing mound of debris — where scores of people are believed to be trapped.

Officials used tarps to visually mark the search area, in case new debris scatters unexpectedly.

State officials said they hired the BG Group, a general contractor based in Delray Beach, Florida, to lead the demolition. They did not immediately respond to an inquiry about how the firm was selected, but a contract for the projects calls for the state to pay the company $935,000.

A spokesperson for the state’s Division of Emergency Management said the company is subcontracting with Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., which experts say is among only a handful of companies in the U.S. that demolishes structures using explosives. The company was supposed to place explosives on the basement and lobby levels of the still-standing structure, according to the contract for the work.

CDI is “probably one of the best” in the industry, said Steve Schwartz, a member of the National Demolition Association’s board of directors. He described the company’s president and owner, Mark Loizeaux, as “cool, calm and collected.”

In implosions — using explosives to have a building fall in on itself — the charges are generally set off in rapid succession over a matter of seconds, said Scott Homrich, who heads the National Demolition Association and runs his own demolition company in Detroit, Michigan. Setting the explosives off at intervals serves to break up the building at the same time it’s coming down.

Officials acknowledged that the tragedy was continuing to unfold during the July 4th holiday.

“This July 4 we’re reminded that patriotism isn’t just about loyalty to country,” said Levine Cava. “It’s about loyalty to one another — to our communities, to those in need whose names or stories we may not know ever, but to whom we are connected by compassion and by resilience.”

___

Calvan reported from Tallahassee. Associated Press writers Terry Spencer in Surfside, Florida; Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami Florida; Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta, and Ian Mader in Miami contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks to the media after Gov. Tony Evers addressed a jo...
Associated Press

Post-Roe differences surface in GOP over new abortion rules

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court repealed in June a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, Wisconsin’s 1849 law that bans the procedure except when a mother’s life is at risk became newly relevant. Republicans in the Legislature blocked an attempt by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to overturn the law. Yet there’s […]
22 hours ago
A cow crosses the Jordan River near Kibbutz Karkom in northern Israel on Saturday, July 30, 2022. S...
Associated Press

Mideast’s Jordan River: Rich in holiness, poor in water

ALONG THE JORDAN RIVER (AP) — Kristen Burckhartt felt overwhelmed. She needed time to reflect, to let it sink in that she had just briefly soaked her feet in the water where Jesus is said to have been baptized, in the Jordan River. “It’s very profound,” said the 53-year-old visitor from Indiana. “I have not […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: August 18, 19th Amendment is ratified

Today in History Today is Thursday, Aug. 18, the 230th day of 2022. There are 135 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Aug. 18, 1587, Virginia Dare became the first child of English parents to be born in present-day America, on what is now Roanoke Island in North Carolina. (However, the […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Heavy rains pelt New Zealand, forcing hundreds to evacuate

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Heavy rain continued to pelt New Zealand on Thursday, causing further disruptions and road closures from a storm that has already forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. Residents in the northern part of North Island found themselves isolated after landslides, fallen trees and floodwaters blocked highway access. The […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak speaks during a news conference on April 29, 2021, in Las Vegas. S...
Associated Press

Nevada gov vows to codify order protecting patients into law

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday that if he wins re-election he would seek to codify in law next legislative session an order he signed that protects in-state abortion providers and out-of-state patients. “Governors are the last line of defense in protecting reproductive freedoms,” he said. “The buck stops with us.” […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Visitors review new Asus computer products at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, Tue...
Associated Press

US to hold trade talks with Taiwan in new show of support

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. government plans talks with Taiwan on a wide-ranging trade treaty in a sign of support for the self-ruled island democracy claimed by China’s ruling Communist Party as part of its territory. The announcement Thursday comes after Beijing held military drills that included firing missiles into the sea to intimidate Taiwan […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Explosives bring down rest of South Florida collapsed condo