Miami-Dade mayor signs order to demolish rest of partially collapsed Florida condo building


An aerial view of the site during a rescue operation of the Champlain Tower partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, on July 1, 2021.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference Friday evening that she has signed an emergency order authorizing the demolition of a 12-story condominium building that partially collapsed more than a week ago.

Engineers will evaluate all possible impacts of the demolition before establishing a specific start date, Levine Cava said, which will likely take a few weeks.

“The building poses a threat to public health and safety, and bringing it down as quickly as possible is critical to protect our community,” Levine Cava said, adding that the search-and-rescue operations remain the first priority of authorities.

Levine Cava also announced that two additional bodies have been found, bringing the death toll to at least 22 confirmed deaths and 126 unaccounted for.

Levine Cava and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez noted earlier Friday that one of the new bodies recovered is of a seven-year-old child whose father works for the Miami fire department. 

“It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders,” Levine Cava told reporters.

“These men and women are paying an enormous human toll each and every day and I ask that all of you, please keep all of them in your thoughts and prayers. They truly represent the very best in all of us, and we need to be there for them as they are here for us.”

Levine Cava also announced that a building in North Miami was found to be unsafe after it was reviewed by authorities, noting that it has not been recertified. Authorities have ordered an evacuation of the building, according to the Associated Press.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie expressed thanks to the federal government and private sector vendors for their support.

He noted that President Joe Biden, following his visit to Surfside yesterday, formally authorized the federal government on Friday to cover 100% of the cost of debris removal and emergency protective measures at the collapse site under the Public Assistance program for a continuous period of 30 days, beginning June 24.

Guthrie also thanked the Royal Caribbean Group for coordinating with the division to provide free housing and resources to search-and-rescue teams at one of its ships docked at PortMiami.

Amazon has also aided search-and-rescue teams by donating 500 laundry bags, 2000 laundry pods and 2000 dryer sheets, he added.

“The support that we have seen for our first responders has been absolutely incredible,” Guthrie said.

Governor Ron DeSantis also provided additional updates on Hurricane Elsa, noting that Southern Florida could see tropical storm force winds as early as Sunday night. Authorities are currently paying “special attention” to any potential impacts on Miami-Dade County.

The Office of Emergency Management division director Charles Cyrille urged citizens to begin preparing evacuation plans, three to seven days of supplies for each member of a household. Cyrille added that homes should also be prepared for impact by securing objects, such as garbage cans and patio furniture, that can be easily blown away by a hurricane. 

“It is critically important that these preparatory activities begin today,” Cyrille said. 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett also provided updates on the Champlain Towers North, the sister property of the collapsed condo building. Burkett said arrangements have been made to relocate residents while experts prepare to conduct a forensic study into the structure to evaluate its safety.

Search-and-rescue operations resumed Thursday night after a day-long halt, with authorities hoping to expand the search area safely.

DeSantis added that search-and-rescue teams for Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will assist the state’s emergency response teams and preparations for Hurricane Elsa. 

The halt of search-and-rescue operations Thursday morning was due to structural concerns identified by subject matter experts, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky. 

Investigations are still being conducted on the cause of the collapse. 

Recent evidence indicates that the 40-year-old condominium building had shown signs of major structural damage as far back as 2018, with a report citing issues with waterproofing beneath the pool and cracking in the underground parking garage. 

A video taken on the night of the collapse has also come to light, showing water pouring into the parking garage of the building. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, announced Wednesday evening that it had launched a federal investigation team to investigate the cause of the collapse and develop improved building codes. 

Former NIST director Dr. Walter Copan, who led the agency under then-president Donald Trump until Jan. 2021, told the Miami Herald that it could be a matter of months before NIST provides new facts from the probe. 

“Generally, there will be an initial summary within three to six months to provide a status update to the public,” said Copan, according to the Herald. 

“NIST’s job, first and foremost, is to brief the public regularly within NIST’s lane of technical analysis and root cause of the failure.”

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