Demolition experts imploded the rest of a partially collapsed condominium building in South Florida late Sunday in response to fears that it was unstable and could come down in the face of high winds from an advancing tropical storm.
It took a matter of seconds for the remaining structure to fall after the demolition was triggered around 10:30 p.m. Local time. A cloud of dust and debris rose up and lingered in the sky for a few minutes afterward.
Local officials had warned people in the area surrounding the building to stay inside and keep their windows closed. Extra efforts were made to cover the original collapse site to make sure new debris did not interfere with search-and-rescue efforts there.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a Sunday evening news conference that the plan was to resume searching the collapse site “very shortly after the blast,” and that crews were standing by to return to the rubble pile as soon as it was deemed safe to do so.
She said imploding the rest of the building meant “allowing us to search in the area closest to the building, which has currently not been accessible to the teams given the great risk to our first responders due to the instability of the building.”
The 12-story condominium building in Surfside, Florida, north of Miami, partially collapsed June 24, and round-the-clock search operations were suspended Saturday in advance of the demolition.
The death toll stands at 24, with 121 people still unaccounted for. No one has been found alive since the earliest hours of the search.
Officials are watching the approach of Tropical Storm Elsa.
Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said they expect the center of the storm to pass near or over the west coast of Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday. That track would spare Surfside from a direct hit, but forecasters still expect the region to experience strong winds with gusts of at least 65 kilometers per hour.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.