Miami Building Collapse: Search briefly stops for 14 hours after concerns that whole building could fall

Rescue crews resumed their search for survivors of the Champlain Towers South collapse on Thursday evening, more than 14 hours after work was halted out of concern that the rest of the building could also fall.

The pause of the search, which came the same day President Biden visited the area and spent three hours with affected families, further imperiled the chances of finding any survivors in the rubble. Eighteen people are known to have died in the collapse in Surfside, Florida and as many as 145 people remain missing, numbers that have remained unchanged since Wednesday.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County said structural engineers had determined that the remaining structure was safe enough for emergency medical workers to resume the search at about 4:45pm. They had paused their efforts at 2:11am

“We will continue to search feverishly,” she said, adding that officials were planning for the eventual demolition of the remaining structure.

The northeast portion of the building, facing the beach, fell to the ground last week, while other units were left standing. But after days of intensive searches, the scene appeared quiet on Thursday morning, with cranes frozen above the rubble.

“They’re working in a very, very unsafe environment,” said Chief Alan Cominsky of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, who described the initial concerns as a large hanging column that threatened to destabilize the remaining structure, as well as movement in concrete slabs and the debris pile. “I couldn’t pinpoint it to one specific incident.”

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida said on Thursday morning that state engineers had been sent to help devise a plan to safely resume the search. Adding to the urgency, the state is also bracing for possible impacts from Tropical Storm Elsa in the coming days.

“Obviously, we believe that continuing searching is something that’s very, very important,” Mr. DeSantis said before rescuers returned to the site.

The collapse has also prompted a review of building integrity in South Florida.

Owners of oceanfront buildings that are more than 30 years old and taller than three stories high should hire engineers to analyze their property for the 40-year recertification, Surfside’s building official said in letters that were hand-delivered to property owners on Thursday. The city also asked property owners to hire a registered geotechnical engineer to analyze the properties’ foundation and subsurface soils.