Condo Rescue Efforts Paused For Safety Concerns; More Than 140 Still Missing

Update: Rescue operations resumed Thursday evening, following a pause triggered by safety concerns.
SURFSIDE, FLORIDA, USA - JUNE 30: Family members hold vigil for the missing victims of Surfside condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, United States, on June 30, 2021.
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Update: Teams in Surfside, Florida, resumed search and rescue operations after a delay that was prompted by officials determining that the rubble was temporarily too unstable to continue.

“I’m very glad, that I can share with you, that starting around 4:45 pm today, we resumed our search and rescue efforts,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on Thursday afternoon. “I have to tell you that our firefighters looked really, really excited to get back out there.”

“Our fire rescue team has been working around the clock, as you know, since this fateful building fall, and we needed our engineers on-site to evaluate the safety of the standing structure,” she added. “I am grateful to their hard work, that got us back to work on the search-and-rescue as soon as possible, and we are continuing, of course, to assure that we do everything to protect our first responders. We will continue to search feverishly as we have done all along on the parts of the collapse that we currently have access to.”

Original story below: 

Teams in Surfside, Florida, were forced to halt search and rescue operations at the collapsed condo site early Thursday out of concern that the rubble and remaining structure were too unstable. 

“We were forced to halt operations on the  collapse in the early hours of the morning due to structural concerns about the standing structure,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a press conference Thursday morning. 

“The search and rescue operation will continue as soon as it is safe to do so,” she said, adding that families waiting for news on their loved ones have been informed as well. 

The pause comes a week after the Chaplain Towers South condo building in Miami-Dade County partially collapsed, trapping numerous residents and killing at least 18 people. More than 140 people remain unaccounted for, reports The New York Times.

While it’s unclear how long the pause will last, Miami Dade Fire and Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky described it as “temporary.”

Cominsky said on-site structural engineers had several concerns, including movement in a column that could cause damage to other support columns in the garage area if it fell, “slight movement” in the concrete slabs in the “north and south corner of the building,” and “movement in the debris pile” near the south end of the structure. 

“We’ve been working in a very very unsafe environment,” said Cominsky, who added that search and rescue teams couldn’t point to one specific “trigger” for the unstable movement he described in the debris pile.

Later Thursday, during a roundtable briefing with President Joe Biden, Cava pledged that officials would be “examining every inch of this catastrophe, with the full might of the federal, state and local government” to figure out what happened. She also praised Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for having an “amazing” team and for personally providing a “steady, calming, reassuring but forceful voice” amidst the disaster.

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