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Search and rescue on pause at partially collapsed condo as crews prepare to demolish remaining structure

Remainder of Florida condo set for demolition
Remainder of Florida condo set for demolition as storm approaches 02:37

Officials say they have paused search and rescue efforts at the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium as they prepare to demolish the remaining structure.

Crews responding to the incident in Surfside, Florida were worried about safety as Tropical Storm Elsa was forecasted to approach the state, possibly dealing a blow to rescue efforts. 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a press conference Saturday "it is all of our fervent desire" that the demolition can be done safely before the storm so that officials can direct the demolition. She said later in the day that engineers were hopeful they could complete the demolition before the storm, but that no exact time frame had been set.

Search and rescue operations paused at collapsed Florida condo 24:15

A contract for demolition to begin has been signed, Levine Cava said. 

The demolition "would be one that would protect and preserve evidence and allow the maximum search and rescue activity to continue," she said. "We're doing everything we can to move forward with demolition as soon as we have a final path to do so."

The Surfside mayor said the fear is Elsa could bring the building down, "and take it down in the wrong direction, on top of the pile where we have victims." It could come down as early as Sunday, said Mayor Charles Burkett.

"If the building is taken down this will protect our search and rescue teams, because we don't know when it could fall over, and of course with these gusts potentially, that would create a really severe hazard," said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

"Once everything is ready to go" the building can be brought down within 36 hours, DeSantis said, adding that the state will pay for all costs associated with the demolition.

"Taking the building down given the fact that the storm is coming and given the fact that you are going to have to do this anyways is the prudent thing to do, and I think it will lead to the course of action that most minimally disrupts the rescue efforts," he said.

Elsa, which is now a tropical storm, is expected to start impacting southern Florida on Monday, then other parts of the state on Tuesday. Its track, however, remains uncertain. As of Saturday, it appeared the eye of the storm could be on the west side of Florida, with gusts possibly being felt in the Surfside area, which is just north of Miami Beach, Florida. 

Officials said Saturday that the confirmed death toll remained at 24 — 23 of whom had been identified — while 121 people were still unaccounted for.

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