SURFSIDE, Fla. – Search-and-rescue teams haven’t been able to work at Champlain Towers South on Thursday since 2:11 a.m. Monitors detected shifts in what is left of the L-shaped building that partially collapsed last week, in Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside.
The official death toll stands at 18, and 145 people remain unaccounted for, according to the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky told a group of reporters Thursday morning there were additional concerns for building stability. The concrete slabs of the southern part of the 12-story building that didn’t collapse were moving.
“Our monitors went off. We were monitoring the cracks we had three that signaled there was some expansion,” Cominsky said.
Comisky also said a large hanging column moved 6-10 inches. The shifts threatened support columns in the underground parking garage. The more than 300 people who have been working on the operation were at risk.
“We have been working in a very, very unsafe environment,” Comisky said after seven days and seven nights of searching for survivors.
Crews first accessed the compact mountain of pancaked concrete through the garage a few hours after the collapse. The rescue teams had been tunneling through in groups of 10 to 12. They worked through intermittent rain and spontaneous fires.
“Our primary focus is obviously rescuing our victims as well as protecting our fire personnel,” Cominsky said.
The work with heavy equipment also came to a halt. Gov. Ron DeSantis said The Florida Department of Transportation had removed almost 1,400 tons of building material from the site. It was piling up at a lot in Golden Glades.
A team of structural engineers was assessing the situation to make recommendations. And with Tropical Storm Elsa approaching the Caribbean and potentially affecting Florida, the safety plans in Surfside were quickly changing.
“We are not expecting any impacts through Saturday, but obviously the state meteorological team is actively monitoring the storm and will continue to provide updates,” DeSantis said.
Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."