Surfside mayor: Building demolition to take place 'as soon as possible'

Surfside mayor: Building demolition to take place 'as soon as possible'
© Getty Images

Surfside, Fla., Mayor Charles Burkett said Sunday morning that the planned demolition of the residential condo building that collapsed last week will take place “as soon as possible,” adding that crews were nearly prepared to bring down the 12-story structure. 

In an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the leader of the Miami-area town said that “as of early this morning, the crews were about 80 percent complete with their preparation to bring the building down.” 

Rescue efforts were paused Saturday in preparation for the demolition, which officials say they are hoping to complete before Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to make landfall in Florida in the coming days. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisDemocratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills A sad reality: In a season of giving, most will ignore America's poor Walt Disney World pauses vaccine mandate after DeSantis signs new legislation MORE (R) on Saturday cited the instability of the remaining structure and possible damage from the storm as reasons for the demolition, saying at the time that the building could be torn down within 36 hours. 

Burkett told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the demolition needed to occur quickly so emergency responders could turn back to the “critical” search for the 124 people who remain unaccounted for more than a week after the collapse. 

“We need to get back to work as soon as possible. We need to get this building taken down. And we need to move forward with the rescue of all those people that are still left in the rubble,” he added. 

CBS’s Ed O’Keefe asked Burkett, “So you’re not ruling out that it could happen today at some point?”

The mayor responded, “No, I’m not.” 

"So it could happen on the Fourth of July." O’Keefe said. "There’s no concern about the symbolism of that potentially?" 

"We haven’t had the luxury of time to even think about that," Burkett replied.

As of Sunday, authorities said at least 24 people have been confirmed dead in the building collapse, with 188 people accounted for. 

In response to questions on how the demolition of the building could impact ongoing rescue efforts, Burkett said Sunday that “the intention is to bring the building down in a westward direction so that the debris pile that exists with victims in it is not affected.” 

“This demolition is going to open up wide the whole area, and we’re going to be able to pull resources onto that pile,” Burkett said. He added that the mentality in the search for those still unaccounted for is a rescue mission, not a “recovery effort.” 

“I constantly am telling people about the BBC documentary which outlines survivability after a collapse where they pulled a lady in Bangladesh out after 17 days,” he said. “We’re not even near that.”

He added, “This rescue effort, as far as I’m concerned, will go on until everybody’s pulled out of that debris.”