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SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Rescuers searched through fresh rubble Monday after the last of the collapsed Florida condo building was demolished, which allowed crews into previously inaccessible places, including bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping at the time of the disaster, officials said.

Three more victims were discovered in the new pile, Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members, raising the death toll to 27 people. Another 118 people remain unaccounted for.The demolition late Sunday was crucial to the search-and-rescue effort, officials said, and raised the prospect that crews could increase both the pace of their work and the number of searchers at the site, although the chance of finding survivors 12 days after the June 24 collapse has diminished.Teams had been unable to access areas closest to the remaining structure because of its instability, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.“Truly we could not continue without bringing this building down,” she said at a news conference.Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the newly accessible area include master bedrooms where people were believed to be sleeping when the building collapsed.“We will be able to access every part of that pile, which they hadn’t been able to do up to this point,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s going to move the pace. I think the momentum is very strong.”Crews could be seen climbing a mound of debris at the site Monday alongside a piece of heavy equipment that was picking up rubble.Workers immediately began clearing some of the new debris after the demolition so rescuers could start making their way into parts of the underground garage that is of particular interest. Officials said the search effort resumed around midnight. It had been called off Saturday to allow specialists to drill holes for explosives needed for the demolition.“As a result of the contractor who brought it down, he did it in such a way that literally we actually were back on the original pile in less than 20 minutes,” Jadallah told family members of those missing, drawing applause in a rare upbeat moment for the twice-daily meetings.Rescuers hoped to get a clearer picture of voids that may exist in the rubble as they search for those believed to be trapped under the fallen wing of the Champlain Towers South.No one has been rescued alive since the first hours after the collapse.During the demolition, a loud rat-a-tat of explosions echoed from the structure. Then the building began to fall, one floor after another, cascading into an explosion of dust. Plumes billowed into the air as crowds watched the scene from afar.Levine Cava told the Associated Press that the demolition went “exactly as planned.”“It was picture-perfect. Exactly what we were told would happen,” she said in an interview.Some residents had pleaded to return to their homes one last time before the demolition to retrieve belongings, but they were denied. Others wondered about the pets left behind. Officials said they found no signs of animals after making three final sweeps, including the use of drones to peer into the abandoned structure.Levine Cava said teams are working to save personal items and have asked residents to catalog what they’re missing to match with items as soon as they are recovered.“The world is mourning for those who lost their loved ones and for those who are waiting for news from the collapse,” she said at the news conference. “To lose your home and all your belongings in this manner is a great loss as well.”The decision to demolish the remnants of the building came after concerns mounted that the damaged structure was at risk of falling, endangering the crews below. Parts of the remaining building shifted on Thursday, prompting a 15-hour suspension in the work.Approaching Tropical Storm Elsa added urgency to the demolition plans. Forecasts suggested the system could bring strong winds. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Florida because of the storm, making federal aid possible.The latest forecasts showed the storm moving westward, mostly sparing South Florida, but the area could still experience heavy rains and winds. Jadallah said that weather was not expected to affect the search efforts.”Now that we don’t have an issue with the building, the only time that we’re stopping is lightning,” he said.

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Condo Collapse

14 days after Florida condo collapse, no signs of survivors

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SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — The search for victims of the collapse of a Miami-area high-rise condominium reached its 14th day on Wednesday, with the death toll at 46, scores still unaccounted for and authorities sounding more and more grim.

Rubble and debris of the Champlain Towers South condo can be seen Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Surfside, Fla. Officials overseeing the search at the site of the Florida condominium collapse seem increasingly somber about the prospects for finding anyone alive. They said Tuesday that crews have detected no new signs of life in the rubble nearly two weeks after the disaster struck at the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP)

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah told family members in a private briefing Wednesday that workers had pulled 10 more bodies and additional human remains from the rubble, raising the death toll.

Crews “did some significant removal of the pile,” he said. “They were able to get down to various areas to inspect.”

Workers on Tuesday dug through pulverized concrete where the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside once stood, filling buckets that were passed down a line to be emptied and then returned.

The up-close look at the search, in a video released Tuesday by the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department, came as eight more deaths were announced — the most for a single day since the search began. It also came as rain and wind from Tropical Storm Elsa disrupted the effort, though the storm was on track to make landfall far across the state.

Searchers have found no new signs of survivors, and although authorities said their mission was still geared toward finding people alive, they sounded increasingly somber.

“Right now, we’re in search and rescue mode,” the county’s police director, Freddy Ramirez, said at a news conference Tuesday evening. He soon added: “Our primary goal right now is to bring closure to the families.”

No one has been rescued from the site since the first hours after the building collapsed on June 24 when many of its residents were asleep.

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Searchers were still looking for any open spaces within the mounds of rubble where additional survivors might be found, said the county’s fire chief, Alan Cominsky.

“Unfortunately, we are not seeing anything positive,” he said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the families of the missing were preparing for news of “tragic loss.” She said President Joe Biden, who visited the area last week, called Tuesday to offer his continued support.

“I think everybody will be ready when it’s time to move to the next phase,” she said.

Reporters got their closest in-person look at the site Tuesday, though it was limited to the portion of the building that workers tore down Sunday after the initial collapse left it standing but dangerously unstable. A pile of shattered concrete and twisted steel stood about 30 feet (9 meters) high and spanned roughly half the length of a football field. A pair of backhoes pulled rubble off the pile, which blocked any view of the search effort.

Severe weather from Elsa hindered search efforts to a degree. Lightning forced rescuers to pause their work for two hours early Tuesday, Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said. And winds of 20 mph (32 kph), with stronger gusts, hampered efforts to move heavy debris with cranes, officials said.

However, the storm’s heaviest winds and rain would bypass Surfside and neighboring Miami as Elsa weakened along its path to an expected landfall somewhere between Tampa Bay and Florida’s Big Bend.

Crews have removed 124 tons (112 metric tonnes) of debris from the site, Cominsky said. The debris was being sorted and stored in a warehouse as potential evidence in the investigation into why the building collapsed, officials said.

Workers have been freed to search a broader area since the unstable remaining portion of the building was demolished.

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Building collapse shows town’s rich, middle-class division

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SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — The condo tower collapse in Surfside could exacerbate the division that already exists between the tiny Florida town’s new luxury buildings built for the global elite and those constructed decades ago for the middle class. It is already creating headaches for some small businesses.

Beachgoers walk by the beach entrance to the Arte by Antonio Citterio condominium, center, Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump rent an apartment at Arte while their home is under construction at nearby Indian Creek Village. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The town has seen the construction of numerous new condos in recent years, where large oceanfront units exceeding 3,000 square feet (280 square meters) with modern amenities can fetch $10 million and up. Meanwhile, small units of 800 square feet (75 square meters) in neighboring condo buildings constructed decades ago can be had for $400,000.

Ana Bozovic, a South Florida real estate broker, said the June 24 collapse of the 40-year-old, middle-class Champlain Towers South will exacerbate this division. At least 36 people were killed and more than 100 remain missing.

Bozovic said many buyers will now avoid older buildings, not just because they fear they might also fall but because of repair costs the Champlain South owners faced before the collapse: $80,000 to $300,000 per unit. These factors will decrease older condos’ value, while prices in luxury buildings will continue to skyrocket.

“The holders of capital who are moving here were never considering older buildings. They are buying newer structures and preconstruction, so I don’t see this putting a damper on their appetites,” said Bozovic, founder of Analytics Miami. “What this will do is further depress sales of older structures and further bifurcate the market.”

Before the Champlain Towers South tragedy, Surfside, with about 6,000 residents on a half-square mile (1.3 square kilometers) of an island off Miami, was one of South Florida’s most anonymous municipalities — though in January Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner rented a luxury condo in a new building two blocks from the collapse.

The town is known for its clean beaches and a 12-story limit on its buildings, and stands in contrast with neighboring Miami Beach and its world-famous nightlife, Bal Harbour with its high-end shopping and both with buildings that are double and triple the height of Surfside’s tallest.

Mayor Charles Burkett said the town has experienced a “roller coaster” of emotions since the collapse. Demolition of the remaining portion of the structure and Tropical Storm Elsa, which brought strong winds and heavy rains to the area, have intensified what the community is going through.

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“We have faced innumerable challenges, but the little good news is the resources we have are all aligned, all focused and pulling in the same direction,” he said.

Ryan Mermer moved to Surfside earlier this year from Palm Beach County, drawn by the quiet, the town’s proximity to Miami’s thriving business climate and its large Orthodox Jewish community. On Saturdays, much of the town closes for the Sabbath except for the chain stores. Surfside was home to Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Yiddish poet and short-story writer who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature.

But Mermer also got a deal on a small apartment built a half-century ago, just steps away from the luxury condo that former President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law moved into. While Mermer’s building was constructed for the middle class, today’s construction is aimed at the New York, European and South American elite, who are drawn by the state’s lifestyle, weather and lack of an income tax.

“I pay $1,375 (a month) … across the street from the beach; Ivanka and Jared pay $38,000,” said Mermer, a real estate agent who also works for Holocaust Heroes Worldwide, a support group for survivors of the Nazi death camps.

In Surfside’s low-key shopping district one recent afternoon, barber Aramis Armor and Freddy Elias, the co-owner of a tailor and dry cleaning shop, had no customers. The pandemic hit their businesses hard, both said, and the collapse and the resulting street closures made it difficult for anyone to reach them.

Amor says that in normal times, the business district is full of families — they can have an ice cream, eat pizza or drink a coffee in the many locally owned businesses that dot the downtown.

“They are all very nice, the clients are very good,” Armor said. He blamed city officials for his lack of business, saying they should never have let the collapsed building decay like it did.

Elias, who has owned Surfside businesses for 25 years, is hoping a federal low-interest loan promised by President Joe Biden’s administration to stores affected by the collapse will tide him over until his customers return. Meanwhile, a partner was headed to a customer’s home for a fitting rather than make the client fight traffic to get to the store.

“Since COVID and now this tragedy, it has been very, very bad for us,” Elias said. “We need help.”

The streets reopened this week.

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