Search continues after Surfside collapse site demolition

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT) July 5, 2021
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12:25 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Multiple Miami-area buildings have been evacuated since the Champlain Towers South collapse

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Ahead of the demolition at the South tower, the condominium board for Champlain Towers East suggested residents evacuate, according to a letter from the condo association's board of directors obtained by CNN.

The letter encouraged residents to evacuate in advance as streets nearby would be congested due to the demolition. The board also asked residents to take their pets and valuables, including passports and important documents, with them.

The letter encouraged residents to evacuate in advance as streets nearby would be congested due to the demolition. The board also asked residents to take their pets and valuables, including passports and important documents, with them.

"Our building foundation has been checked multiple times, but we make this suggestion in an abundance of caution," the letter reads. "We do not expect any impact to us but you can't be too careful under the circumstances."

On Saturday, the city of Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a residential building out of an abundance of caution after a city inspector looked at an empty unit and flagged a "flooring system failure in that unit and excessive deflection on an exterior wall," according to city spokesperson Melissa Berthier.

The day before, North Miami Beach officials ordered the evacuation of the Crestview Towers, saying the building was delinquent with its 40-year recertification. Officials cited the late certification report to say the building was structurally and electrically unsafe.

Many residents of Champlain Towers South whose condos didn't collapse had to evacuate without many of their belongings, leaving behind clothes, valuables and family photographs.

On Sunday, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez III said homicide detectives had been "collecting items that are retrievable, and are logging them and documenting them."

Any type of heirloom that was safe to retrieve is being documented to "be addressed at a later date with family members," he said.

9:13 a.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Miami officials will give an update on the building collapse this morning

Miami-Dade Police plan to hold a news conference later this morning on the building collapse in Surfside.

Earlier today, search and rescue operations resumed after the rest of the building was demolished last night. Officials said they hoped it would now be safer to expand their efforts.

At least 24 people are dead and 121 people are still unaccounted for.

12:24 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Surfside isn't in Tropical Storm Elsa's forecast cone — but it could still get rain

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

The rest of the Champlain Towers South building was demolished Sunday night as the threat of Tropical Storm Elsa loomed. Officials and rescue crews were increasingly concerned about the safety of those searching the rubble and the potential the rest of the structure would collapse.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 15 counties Saturday — including Miami-Dade County — because of Tropical Storm Elsa.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Florida Keys and a tropical storm watch is in effect for parts of southwest Florida as far north as Tampa Bay.

Surfside is no longer in Elsa's forecast cone, but the area could still receive some rain from the storm.

The governor expressed his support for the demolition plan ahead of Elsa's impact and said Saturday he believed it would be best for the building to be down before the storm arrives. "With these gusts potentially, it would create a really big hazard."

12:24 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

"Chances to find somebody alive is close to zero," rescue unit official says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Golan Vach, Commander of the Israel Rescuers delegation arrives in the area near the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in the city of Surfside, Florida, on June 27.
Golan Vach, Commander of the Israel Rescuers delegation arrives in the area near the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in the city of Surfside, Florida, on June 27. Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Images

More than a week after a residential building partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, the chances of finding people alive under the rubble are "close to zero," said Col. Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit that is helping the search and rescue efforts.

"I'm realistic, but we are still full of hope. This hope keeps us very active, and we scale up each day," he said Monday. "We wake up in the morning ... with a lot of energy to find the loved ones, alive or not alive."

As the search and rescue efforts were paused during the demolition process, Vach said his team used the time to update the last location of people that were found and those questioned.

"Right now, we have precise and accurate plan to continue in these searching efforts," he told CNN.

So far, Vach said the crews have found "what makes life."

"We saw all what makes life. We saw furnitures ... we saw toys. And we are looking for the people, of course," he said.

7:57 a.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Miami Beach apartment building ordered to evacuate

From CNN's Dakin Andone, Hollie Silverman and Melissa Alonso

Amid the investigation into what caused the collapse, the nearby city of Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a three-story residential building Saturday evening out of an abundance of caution, according to city spokesperson Melissa Berthier.

The building is on Lenox Avenue and has 24 units, per Berthier. According to the city, 11 of the units are unoccupied and one person required housing assistance.

This is at least the second building ordered to be evacuated in Miami-Dade County since Champlain Towers South collapsed. Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach was evacuated Friday.

Berthier said Miami Beach fire teams responded to a service call Saturday about a vacant unit. When the city inspector arrived on the scene, he flagged a "flooring system failure in that unit and excessive deflection on an exterior wall."

The evaluation of the structural integrity of the building is ongoing, per Berthier.

Separately, the city of Surfside has asked the owners of buildings more than 30 years old and more than three stories tall to assess their properties for recertification in advance of their traditional 40-year deadline.

12:24 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Search efforts are back on following last night's planned demolition

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Gregory Lemos

A pile of debris remains the morning after the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo was taken down with a controlled demolition on July 5 in Surfside, Florida. 
A pile of debris remains the morning after the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo was taken down with a controlled demolition on July 5 in Surfside, Florida.  Saul Martinez/Getty Images

Search and rescue efforts have resumed at the Champlain Towers South collapse site in Surfside, Florida, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. 

The department confirmed search and rescue personnel are back on the pile of rubble searching. The exact time for when operations resumed was not provided by the fire department. 

Search and rescue was halted last night as the planned demolition of the remaining structure took place. Officials said once the area had been deemed secure following the demolition, search and rescue teams would resume their efforts on the debris pile. 

12:24 p.m. ET, July 5, 2021

The rest of the partially collapsed Surfside building was demolished to expand search efforts

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

The rest of the Champlain South tower is seen being demolished in Surfside, Florida, north of Miami Beach, late on July 4. 
The rest of the Champlain South tower is seen being demolished in Surfside, Florida, north of Miami Beach, late on July 4.  Giorgio Viera/AFP/Getty Images

The rest of the Champlain Towers South building was demolished Sunday night, and officials hope it will now be safer for rescue teams to expand their search with fewer reinforcements.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said he hopes the demolition will eliminate a potentially dangerous threat to workers and possibly open an estimated third of the remaining pile to search and rescue teams.

With the threat of Tropical Storm Elsa looming, officials and rescue crews were increasingly concerned about the safety of those searching the rubble and the potential the rest of the structure would collapse.

Background: The demolition came after part of the building fell early in the morning on June 24, collapsing approximately 55 of the building's 136 units. Crews immediately began digging through up to 16 feet of concrete and have confirmed at least 24 people were killed, including children. There are 121 people who remain unaccounted for.

The structure was demolished around 10:30 p.m. ET Sunday using a method Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called "energetic felling," describing it as a process that "uses small, strategically placed explosives and relies on gravity to bring the building down in place."

Search efforts at the partially collapsed building were paused Saturday around 4 p.m. so engineers could secure the site and prepare for the demolition.

"As soon as the building is down and once the site is deemed secure, we will have our first responders back on the pile to immediately resume their work," Levine Cava said Sunday night.

8:01 a.m. ET, July 5, 2021

Here's how you can help Surfside building collapse victims

From CNN's Ashley Vaughan

A woman is seen in front of the Surfside Wall Of Hope & Memorial on July 4, in Surfside, Florida. 
A woman is seen in front of the Surfside Wall Of Hope & Memorial on July 4, in Surfside, Florida.  Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

Rescue workers continue to dig through rubble and debris looking after the partial collapse of a building in the town of Surfside, just north of Miami, Florida. 

As families wait in agony for updates on missing loved ones, there are ways you can ensure they don't face this situation alone. Organizations are on the ground to help.

Here is how you can support them — even from miles away. To donate to organizations featured click here.

Donate money or personal care items

  • The American Red Cross is helping displaced residents find safe places. The group is also offering emotional and spiritual support to the survivors.
  • ATJC Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center is collecting donations for individuals and families impacted by the collapse. The organization is asking for items including sheets, pillows, phone chargers, and snack food.
  • Direct Relief has teamed up with the NBA's Miami Heat to collect donations helping provide healthcare for survivors and equipment for first responders.

Provide meals

  • Food Rescue U.S. is on the ground in Miami providing and transporting meals to evacuees.
  • Mercy Chefs is serving meals to first responders.
  • World Central Kitchen is serving hot meals to the Surfside community to make sure displaced residents and rescue crews are fed as they face the unexpected.

Assist with transportation

  • Salvation Army U.S.A. is in Florida helping to assist with transportation costs for families who may have been vacationing in the area. The organization says they are also helping individuals who need to make funeral arrangements, travel to Florida.

Support emotional wellness