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Demolition underway of Miami apartment building partially destroyed by fire last week

Demolition begins at site of massive Miami apartment complex fire
Demolition begins at site of massive Miami apartment complex fire 02:35
Miami apartment building partially destroyed in last week's fire being demolished 01:49

MIAMI - It was an emotional day for the residents of the Temple Court Apartments on Tuesday as crews began demolition of the building, which was heavily damaged in a fire that was intentionally set last week.  

Those who lived in the complex at 431 NW 3 Street were not allowed to return to collect personal belongings because it was deemed structurally unsafe. 

"The residents have been informed that they are not going back inside," said City of Miami spokeswoman Kenia Fallat. "It is considered unsafe because of a partial collapse inside and the hazardous materials contained within."

The city said the roof and top floors are now on the bottom floors and with the recent heavy rains, the walls could come crashing down at any time.

She said residents understand and that they "just need to hear those words of comfort."

"I think that the only thing that I can tell them is that they're alive and that's what actually matters," she said. 

Many of the building's residents showed up Tuesday morning to watch as it was torn down.

"I lost family photos, I lost pretty much all of my belongings," said Joel Enrique.

Enrique, who lived in the building with 3 family members, said "I have pretty much accepted the fact that I have lost everything. It was pretty upsetting to wake up and you see that your home is taken from you and so many other people. It is just heartbreaking that we are not able to get it back."

"I have lost everything. I have my clothes, my wallet, my computer. The only thing I was able to save was the clothes I had at the time and my phone. That was it."

He said, "I understand you can't go in the buildings because it is a hazard. The 4th floor collapsed on the 3rd floor and the 2nd floor collapsed."

"Right now I am going to try and see if I can live with my dad," he said. "And I am hoping others will get the money and the help that they need."

Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez visited with those who have been displaced and said the state is looking into ways it can help.

"These people lost it all. They lost every single item of clothing, they lost papers, and so we are doing everyting we can. Obviously, this is a city building, the county is here as well, the state, so I think being able to coordinate those resources and to help them, to see that we are going to allow them to find the opportunities to work with all these agencies to be able to provide whatever they need," she said. "Right now we are just trying to sort through what their needs are and how we can assist them." 

The fire last Monday quickly turned into a crime scene after Miami police found maintenance worker Feder Biotte, who had been shot during an argument with a tenant.

Biotte was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in critical condition. His father said he is still intubated and cannot speak.

The man accused of shooting Biotte, 73-year-old Juan Figeroa, is facing attempted murder and arson charges. Figeroa reportedly confessed to setting the fire.

More than 40 people, most being senior citizens on Section 8 Housing, lost just about everything they owned. Most are being put up in Doral motel until more permanent housing becomes available.

The demolition of the building is expected to take four to six weeks.  

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