Ten days after a 12-story building in Surfside near Miami collapsed, authorities demolished the rest of the building in a controlled explosion Sunday evening, before Tropical Storm Elsa, expected Tuesday, hit Florida.
The search for victims was suspended on Saturday in preparation for demolition, while the number of dead reached 24 dead and 121 missing.
According to television pictures, the explosion occurred shortly after 10:30 pm local time.
Most of the building, called Champlain Towers South, collapsed in the middle of the night on June 24 amid a cloud of dust, one of the most serious urban disasters in US history.
Authorities fear the rest of the building will collapse in turn, threatening the safety of the rescuers. Those fears were exacerbated by the arrival of Tropical Storm Elsa expected Tuesday in Florida.
“The demolition itself is limited to the immediate surroundings of the building,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine warned Sunday at a news conference.
“However, there are dust and other particles that are an inevitable consequence of demolitions of any kind, and as a precaution, we are urging the residents of the neighborhood to stay indoors,” she added.
“Destroying this building, given a storm approached and we had to do it anyway, is wise,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday.
For the county mayor, it was “necessary to demolish the building in a controlled manner to expand” the searches, because the teams were unable to move forward due to the risk of further collapse.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden and his wife traveled to Florida to comfort families who improvised a wire mesh wall of remembrance, covered with pictures of victims and missing persons, decorated with flowers and candles.
Only one survivor – a teenager – was pulled from the rubble in the first hours of relief operations. No other survivor was found despite the crowd of rescuers, who came from all over the United States, even from Israel and Mexico.
Among the missing were dozens of Latin Americans from Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay.
If the hypothesis of failure to maintain the building is raised, no clear answer will be given.
“We don’t have solid evidence of what happened,” Joe Biden said Thursday, referring to “a series of questions.”
Among them, the chief raised questions about the maintenance and structure of the building, and the nearby construction work, at high water.
A report early in 2018 noted “significant structural damage,” as well as “cracks” in the building’s basement, according to documents released by the town of Surfside.