Florida officials said Saturday they would move ahead with a plan to demolish the rest of the collapsed Surfside, Fla., condo building within 36 hours, citing concerns about the structure being unsafe due to the impending Tropical Storm Elsa, which could make landfall within days.
The storm was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm on Saturday morning. While it is currently projected to hit the west coast of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico, officials warned Saturday that any movement east could impact ongoing search and rescue efforts in the Miami-area town of Surfside.
Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisBiden, Trump tied in potential 2024 match-up: poll Nearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Miami private school orders vaccinated students to stay at home for 30 days as 'precautionary measure' MORE (R) said that the planned demolition could be done within the next 36 hours, even as dozens of residents of the Champlain Towers South building remain missing.
The death toll in the condo building collapse increased to 24 on Saturday morning after emergency responders recovered two additional bodies from the rubble overnight, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D) announced.
"If the building is taken down, this will protect our search and rescue teams because we don't know when it could fall over, and, of course, with these gusts potentially, that would create a really severe hazard," DeSantis said, adding the state would cover the costs of the demolition.
Officials said that the situation is fluid and that an exact timeline for the demolition has not yet been officially approved.
Cava said later in the press conference that the Maryland-based company Controlled Demolition Inc. had been contracted to oversee and implement the demolition.
“Obviously, it is all of our fervent desire that this can be done safely before the storm so that we can direct the demolition,” the Miami-Dade mayor explained. “This demolition would be one that would protect and preserve evidence and allow the maximum search and rescue activity to continue.”
DeSantis said Saturday that he had issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency as Elsa raced toward Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with the governor saying that it could begin to impact the Florida Keys and the state’s southern peninsula as early as Monday.
Officials reported 188 people accounted for and 124 people unaccounted for more than a week after the disaster.
The updates come after the governor’s office announced that DeSantis would not be attending former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE’s rally scheduled for Saturday evening in Sarasota, Fla., explaining that DeSantis’s “duty is to be in Surfside making sure the families and community have what they need in the aftermath of the tragic building collapse.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett praised the governor and other state and local officials Saturday, saying they “have not forgotten what their duty is, and that is to serve.”