Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava said on Monday morning that three more victims have been recovered from the ruins of the collapsed condo tower in Surfside, Fl., bringing the total death toll so far to 27.
Cava added that the demolition of the rest of Champlain Towers South “was executed exactly as planned” the previous evening, and that it would now allow rescue teams to work on a section of the collapsed building that was previously inaccessible. She noted that 118 individuals remain unaccounted for.
“Truly, we could not continue without bringing this building down,” Cava said. “The area closest to the building was not accessible, due to the enormous risk to the team of first responders, because of the instability of the building.”
According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the newly accessible section of rubble is also from a part of the building where many bedrooms were located, and may contain the remains of many victims. The building collapsed in the middle of the night.
Authorities had been concerned that an approaching tropical storm might topple the standing part of the building onto the section that had already collapsed. That would have been a massive setback in the search for victims and for clues to the cause of the disaster.
Tropical Storm Elsa now appears to be tracking further to the west, and is more likely to hit the west coast of Florida, rather than the site of the disaster. But officials at the National Weather Service say the storm’s course still could change.
Cava acknowledged that demolishing people’s homes “is a devastating decision” and said that “our teams are doing everything possible to help those who lost their home begin to rebuild.”
She said that authorities are working with insurance companies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to streamline claims and help those who’ve lost homes and property.
One animal rescue volunteer had gone to court to stop the demolition of the rest of the tower, asking the court to allow more time to rescue pets that might still be trapped inside. The judge denied the motion.
Cava said in her Monday briefing that Miami-Dade rescue teams had already gone through parts of the building that were still accessible, “searching in closets and under beds” to find missing pets.