Surfside officials see condo demolition as ‘green light’ to resume ‘search and rescue’ operation

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the demolition of the remaining structure at the Champlain Tower site could provide a “green light” to enable a more robust search and rescue effort, which was temporarily suspended Saturday afternoon.

The town pushed to demolish the building amid fears that Tropical Storm Elsa could potentially cause the tower to collapse, which would further complicate the already difficult search and rescue operation.

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Burkett called the storm a “blessing in disguise,” as the demolition of the building could provide a much needed boost to search and rescue efforts. No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse.

“The building’s been a problem since the very beginning, and we need to eliminate all the problems and all the barriers to getting everybody out of there,” Burkett said on CBS show “Face the Nation.” “So once this building’s down, it’s going to be a green light to move full speed ahead, maximum effort to pull these people out and reunite them with their family.”

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All resources and tactics have already been operating at full speed, but the rescue effort has faced a number of hurdles, periodically stopping due to weather, and at points stopping due to a fire that was burning deep in the rubble itself.

In this satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies heavy-lift cranes are used to aid in the search and recovery operation at the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building on Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

In this satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies heavy-lift cranes are used to aid in the search and recovery operation at the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building on Saturday, July 3, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. (Maxar Technologies via AP)
(Maxar Technologies via AP)

The plan is to demolish the building in a “westward direction,” which will prevent any damage or issue with the existing rubble pile and allow potential greater access to the site.

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Burkett said there is no concern for nearby buildings due to precautions the town took during the initial disaster.

“Those buildings were evacuated the day of the incident, so there are no people living in those structures to the South or the North,” he said.

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Burkett also praised the support Surfside has received from leadership at the local, state and federal level: He thanked Governor Ron DeSantis and President Biden in particular for providing “whatever we needed.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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