Mayor Orders Demolition of Florida Condo That Partially Collapsed

Rescue crews found the body of the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter while searching the wreckage of Champlain Towers South, officials said Friday. The known death toll rose to 20.


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The Miami-Dade mayor ordered the demolition of the remaining Surfside condo.





Condo Collapse Deaths Include a Firefighter’s 7-Year-Old Daughter

Officials in Surfside, Fla., said on Friday that the death toll rose to 20 in the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and that two bodies recovered overnight included the young daughter of a Miami firefighter. As many as 128 people remain unaccounted for.

“Last night, we did discover two additional victims. Tragically, one of those victims was the 7-year-old daughter of a city of Miami firefighter. And it goes without saying that every night since this last Wednesday has been immensely difficult for everybody, and particularly the families that have been impacted, but last night was uniquely different. It was truly different, and more difficult for our first responders. We have now confirmed 20 deaths, 188 people are accounted for and 128 are unaccounted for. And you’ll notice that the number of accounted for people has increased.” “You know, every victim we remove, it’s difficult, it’s very difficult. We try to respect, we have a whole process in regards to how we remove each individual that we come across, you know, unfortunately, you know, we haven’t been able to remove any survivors yet. But it’s very difficult, and last night was even more, you know, when removing a fellow firefighter’s daughter, and that’s just where I want to emphasize the emotion. You know, what we’re feeling, you know, as firefighters, we do what we do, you know, and it’s kind of a calling. And we always say that. But it still takes a toll.”

Officials in Surfside, Fla., said on Friday that the death toll rose to 20 in the collapse of Champlain Towers South, and that two bodies recovered overnight included the young daughter of a Miami firefighter. As many as 128 people remain unaccounted for.CreditCredit…Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The mayor of Miami-Dade County said Friday that she had ordered the demolition of the still-standing portion of Champlain Towers South, a decision made a day after fears that the damaged structure could fall disrupted rescue efforts.

“The building poses a threat to public health and safety, and bringing it down as quickly as possible is critical to protect our community,” said the mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, who cautioned that the demolition would not begin until engineers signed off, perhaps weeks from now.

More than a week since much of the condo tower collapsed, the search effort has proceeded slowly, with some areas of the debris pile deemed too dangerous for rescue crews. Ms. Levine Cava said Friday that four more bodies had been found, bringing the total to 22. As many as 126 people remain unaccounted for.

The 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter was among the most recent victims to be found, a moment that was especially difficult for rescue workers who have labored for more than a week in Surfside, Fla., without finding any survivors.

“Every victim we remove, it’s difficult,” said Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. “Last night was even more when we were removing a fellow firefighter’s daughter.” He added: “As firefighters, we do what we do. It’s kind of a calling. And we always say that. But it still takes a toll.”

Elad Edri, the deputy commander of an Israeli team working at the site, said police officers and firefighters formed two columns to flank the girl’s removal from the debris. Mr. Edri said that once she had been taken away, the rescuers embraced and wept.

The search, which paused for about 14 hours on Thursday amid fears that the rest of the condo building could fall, has been hampered by rough weather and dangerous conditions, with each passing day further dimming the chances of finding survivors. Though rescue crews said they were holding out hope that they might find someone alive — a point Chief Cominsky and Mayor Levine Cava reiterated on Friday — officials have spoken in increasingly blunt terms about the outlook.

“They’re praying, they’re pleading, ‘God, let there be a miracle,'” President Biden said Thursday after meeting with the families of the missing.

The number of people who have not been accounted for dropped slightly Friday after officials audited their reports and found that some people who had been marked missing were in fact safe.

As the weekend approached, authorities were making contingency plans for Hurricane Elsa, which had strengthened Friday from a tropical storm. The hurricane, which was already threatening Caribbean islands, was expected to turn toward Florida by the end of the weekend, with strong winds reaching the state as early as Sunday evening.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said officials were planning to continue searching in Surfside, while also protecting any equipment that might be threatened by the storm and monitoring the stability of the partly collapsed building.

“We’re adding this special emphasis on this site because we understand the sensitivities involved,” Mr. DeSantis said.

Chief Cominsky said crews were monitoring the weather to determine when and if they might have to pause search efforts.

“We want to be working out there as long as we can,” he said.

Even as the search continues and investigations remain in their early stages, court hearings are already being held about the collapse. At a virtual hearing on Friday, a lawyer for the building’s condo association board said the surviving board members — one is still missing — had voted unanimously to appoint an independent party to handle the lawsuits that residents have started filing against the board.

Michael Goldberg, a lawyer, will serve in the position, known as an independent receiver, and will be closely involved in how the association uses $48 million in insurance money and any proceeds from asset sales, including cash distributions to survivors and families of the dead.

The nearby city of North Miami Beach undertook a building audit recommended by Ms. Levine Cava’s office following the collapse, the mayor said, and had found one building that had not completed the necessary recertification process for buildings 40 years and older.

A notice posted on North Miami Beach’s website said a special City Council meeting had been called for Saturday to discuss the evacuation of Crestview Towers, about a seven-mile drive from the collapse site in Surfside.

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