The death toll from a Florida condominium collapse rose to 27 on Monday, after three more bodies were recovered from the rubble.
The three additional bodies were found after authorities resumed their search and rescue efforts hours after the demolition of the remaining part of the building in Surfside, Fla., Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D) said during a news conference.
The families of the newly recovered victims have reportedly been notified, according to The Associated Press.
Authorities demolished the remaining part of the Champlain Towers South on Sunday evening out of concern that the standing part of the building could fall and injure crews below as Tropical Storm Elsa approaches the state. Forecasters are predicting that the storm will hit Florida on Tuesday, but Surfside is not expected to be in Elsa’s direct path.
Cava said the demolition was executed “exactly as planned.” She also said the order to bring the remaining part of the building down was “in no way a decision that I made lightly,” but said the move was “critical to expanding our scope of search.”
“Truly, we could not continue without bringing this building down. The area closest to the building was the area that we had not been able to access, and that is where we needed to go,” Cava added.
Cava said it was unsafe to search through the pile of debris closest to the condo because it was “actually holding the building up, and so therefore it was not safe to do search activities on that part of the pile.”
She said authorities decided to demolish the remaining part of the building to access the debris. They are focusing their current efforts on finding voids where people may have taken cover.
No survivors have been discovered since the initial hours after the collapse.
Cava also expressed optimism in finding survivors after the remaining part of the building was brought down.
“We worked very hard to bring this building down so we could get access to this pile where it is hoped that there are voids that will allow us to continue the search and rescue operation. So that is what we are doing today,” Cava responded.
When asked what would change or be done differently if the operation shifts solely to a recovery mission, Arthur Holmes Jr., the assistant chief of operations at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said nothing would change other than the label of who is in charge.
Cava also revealed on Monday that authorities, ahead of the building’s demolition on Sunday, “took every action that we possibly could” to search for any pets or animals in the building “at great personal risk to our first responders.”
She said officials conducted multiple in-person sweeps of the building, including searching closets, under beds and in other hiding areas.
Authorities also used ladders on high-lift cranes to place live animal traps on balconies in an effort to recover pets that were in areas of the building that were not accessible.
The mayor did not reveal how many, if any, pets or animals were recovered prior to the demolition.
“I want to say as clearly as I possibly can and urge our community to understand that we went truly to great lengths to take every step that we could, at great risk to our first responders, to ensure that all of the pets that were beloved family members, that none of them were left in the building prior to the demolition,” Cava said.
White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden does not plan to shield Trump docs in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Arizona recount to show Trump's loss by even wider margin Watch live: Psaki, Homeland Secretary Mayorkas hold press briefing MORE last week said President BidenJoe BidenHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue Pelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system MORE supports an investigation into the building collapse.
During a visit to the site last week, he was briefed by state and local officials, thanked first responders and spoke privately with the families who lost relatives in the incident.
Biden told officials during a briefing that the federal government intends to cover “100 percent of the costs” incurred by the county and state for their response to the collapse for 30 days.
--Updated at 12:49 p.m.