Search continues after Surfside collapse site demolition

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 4:11 PM ET, Mon July 5, 2021
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4:05 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

It's been more than a week since the Surfside condo collapse. Here's where the search stands.

Rescuers search for victims at a collapsed South Florida condo building Monday, July 5, in Surfside, after demolition crews set off a string of explosives that brought down the last of the Champlain Towers South building in a plume of dust on Sunday.
Rescuers search for victims at a collapsed South Florida condo building Monday, July 5, in Surfside, after demolition crews set off a string of explosives that brought down the last of the Champlain Towers South building in a plume of dust on Sunday. Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/AP

It has been more than a week since part of the Champlain Towers South condo building fell early in the morning on June 24, collapsing 55 of the building's 136 units.

Search and rescue efforts have continued for days, but at least 118 people remain unaccounted for. Here's what we know about the building, the collapse and the race to find the missing:

  • Search is back on after overnight demolition: The rest of the Champlain Towers South building was demolished Sunday night in hopes it could help rescue teams to expand their search with fewer reinforcements. Search efforts were halted during the demolition but have resumed at the site, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said Monday morning.
  • Two dozen dead: Since the collapse, officials have confirmed that at least 27 people were killed, including children.
  • Cause of the collapse still unknown: Investigators continue searching for answers as to what triggered the collapse after a 2018 report raised concerns about structural damage to the condominium. Maryland-based Morabito Consultants performed a structural analysis as part of Champlain Towers South's 40-year recertification effort. The structural field survey highlighted "abundant cracking and spalling" in concrete columns and walls, "exposed, deteriorating rebar" and failing waterproofing beneath the pool deck and entrance drive that was causing "major structural damage" to the concrete structural slab. It warned of rapid deterioration if it wasn't promptly replaced, according to the report.
  • Tropical storm headed to Florida won't hit Surfside: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 15 counties Saturday — including Miami-Dade County — because of Tropical Storm Elsa, which is forecast to hit Florida's Gulf Coast later this week. Surfside is no longer in Elsa's forecast cone, but the area could still receive some rain from the storm.

CNN's Madeline Holcombe contributed reporting to this post.

3:46 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Severe thunderstorm warning issued in Surfside, Florida

From CNN's Haley Brink

 Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Imges
 Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Imges

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued in Florida, and it includes Surfside.

This warning is in effect until 4 p.m. ET as an outer band from Elsa pushes through the region. Winds up to 60 mph, penny-sized hail and isolated tornadoes are possible as this line of storms moves in. Torrential rainfall is also occurring within these storms and may lead to flash flooding.

Search and rescue efforts are continuing in Surfside following the building collapse 12 days ago. At least 27 people are dead and 118 people are still unaccounted for.

1:19 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Miami-Dade Police identify 2 more victims of Surfside collapse

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Gregory Lemos

The Miami-Dade Police Department has identified two more victims of the Champlain Towers South condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida.

According to MDPD, Ingrid Ainsworth, 66, and Tzvi Ainsworth, 68, were recovered from the rubble Monday.

The number of deceased now stands at 27.

12:48 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Surfside mayor says Elsa "initiated a conversation" about demolishing the rest of the building

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Tropical Storm Elsa, moving toward Florida, “initiated a conversation about the necessity to bring that building down because the worst thing that could have happened was to have a storm come in and blow that building down on top of the pile.”

Remember: Surfside is no longer in Elsa's forecast cone, but the area could still receive some rain from the storm. Showers, thunderstorms and gusty winds are possible starting tonight, officials said.

The portion of the building that was still standing was demolished Sunday night around 10:30 p.m. ET.

Speaking to CNN’s Boris Sanchez, Burkett said family members were told that work “resumed 20 mins after the demolition,” adding that the announcement was followed by applause. Later on Monday, Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County mayor, told reporters that work commenced on the pile around midnight and search and rescue efforts fully resumed around 1 a.m. ET Monday morning. 

Burkett called the building that still stood “a looming danger" and said it "prevented a lot of work from being done.” Now that the building is gone, “we're now at 100% full strength, full-on pulling everybody out of that rubble pile,” he said. 

The mayor toured the site this morning and said work continues. “It is encouraging to see how aggressively they are attacking the pile,“ he said.

12:42 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Miami-Dade County mayor says investigation into Surfside collapse is "complicated" and will take a while

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos and Jason Morris

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks during a press briefing on July 5.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks during a press briefing on July 5. CNN

The mayor of Miami-Dade County said the investigation into Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, Florida, is “complicated” and will take a while. 

“This investigation is going to be ongoing. It's very complicated,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Monday. “The state attorney has indicated she would ask the grand jury to get involved.”

Levine Cava expects the investigation to “continue over a long period of time.”

The mayor said the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has “been active on the site.”

Cava said NIST photographed the remaining structure before it was taken down Sunday night. She said NIST is exploring “every part of the building that they had access to” and continues interviewing people.

The Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, Alfredo Ramirez, said his teams are still largely focused on the recovery of family members and the preservation of evidence.

When asked about a possible design flaw in the building, Ramirez said it was too early to discuss.

“We’re too early in this process to really start discussing those things right now,” Ramirez said. “But this will be a long process, as has been stated, and it'll be very thorough.”

12:26 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Surfside could get thunderstorms and winds tonight as search efforts continue

From CNN's Amanda Watts

Surfside, Florida — where enormous search and rescue effort are underway in the wake of a building collapse — may experience showers, thunderstorms, and gusty winds as Tropical Storm Elsa moves north, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Molleda said.

Surfside is no longer in Elsa's forecast cone, but the area could still receive some rain from the storm.

“Although the forecast has the center of the storm passing closer to the west coast of Florida, we will still feel some intermittent showers, especially tonight and tomorrow. And these showers and thunderstorms will have some brief, but gusty winds and these winds could still be quite strong, across the area,” Molleda said Monday during a news conference. “As well as locally heavy rain, localized flooding possible, and even the possibility of one or two tornadoes across south Florida.” 

Charles Cyrille, division director Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management, said residents should avoid unnecessary travel “as strong winds and heavy rains may make driving hazardous.” 

Cyrille said later on Monday, his division will begin “implementing plans to redeploy assets at the collapse site.” 

12:26 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Pile of rubble closest to Champlain Towers South collapse was “holding the building up,” mayor says

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

As search and rescue efforts continue following Sunday night’s demolition of the remaining portion of Champlain Towers South, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County said Monday that a pile of debris closest to the building was actually holding the structure up.

 “This pile, closest to the building, was actually holding the building up and so therefore was not safe to do search activities on that part of the pile,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Monday.

The mayor said possible impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa and the instability of the remaining structure were the impetus for taking the building down.

Levine Cava said search and rescue personnel are looking for voids and possible survivors.

12:26 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Florida governor says demolishing rest of collapsed building was the "right thing to do"

From CNN's Kay Jones

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press briefing in Surfside, Florida, on July 5.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press briefing in Surfside, Florida, on July 5. WSVN

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said today that the demolition of the remaining part of the collapsed building in Surfside was a "good effort" and the "right thing to do" to help everyone move forward.

He said that while one of the concerns was the approaching storm, the other was the location of the remaining structure in relation to the site and the accessibility by the search and rescue teams. DeSantis said they did not want to have any problems with the building “impeding the searches.” 

While Miami-Dade officials made the final call on the demolition plans, he said the state was fully supportive of them. DeSantis added that the structure came down almost exactly as planned. 

He said that teams are making "a lot of progress" with the search efforts in that area.

The governor said that there is good news with Tropical Storm Elsa in relation to Surfside since it seems to be moving a little further west of the area: Surfside is no longer in Elsa's forecast cone, but the area could still receive some rain from the storm.

DeSantis said he's likely to sign an updated executive order later today that will likely remove Miami-Dade County from the list of affected counties.  

3:55 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

3 more victims pulled from the collapse rubble, increasing death toll to 27, mayor says 

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Source: CNN

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced three additional victims were discovered in the rubble.

“Since the first responders were able to resume their work on the collapse last night, we have very sadly recovered three additional victims,” Levine Cava said Monday during a press conference.

The death toll now stands at 27 with 191 people accounted for and 118 others still unaccounted for.

"Please join me in praying for those who lost their lives and the families who mourn and for all of those who are still waiting," the mayor said.

Levine Cava noted that the demolition of the remainder of the condo has allowed rescue workers to work on a part of the pile that was not accessible before.