SURFSIDE, Fla. – Rescue crews are continuing to search for victims in Surfside after the remaining structure of Champlain Towers South was demolished Sunday night.
The crews were given the all clear not long after the 12-story high rise came tumbling down around 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a Monday afternoon briefing that search crews are able to access all sections of the grid now that the remaining structure is down and no longer a safety issue.
“The teams have removed more than 4.8 million pounds from the pile,” she said.
Lightning has caused multiple pauses in the search efforts since they resumed early Monday morning, the mayor added.
“After demolition, technicians went in and deemed it safe,” Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said.
A map shows the blast zone and the surrounding area where a shelter in place was ordered — that area includes Champlain Towers East and the Atlantic Rose building.
Crews began clearing the new debris so rescuers could start making their way into parts of an underground garage of particular interest in the search for the people still unaccounted for.
“Now we’re able to focus on the entire site, starting to reach into that debris pile that we weren’t able to and hopefully bring some good news or at least some closure to this community,” Carroll said.
WATCH: Evening news conference with latest updates on Surfside.
On Monday, Levine Cava confirmed that a body had been recovered from the rubble during the day, bringing the official death toll to 28.
Two victims were recovered early Monday morning and they were identified as 66-year-old Ingrid Ainsworth and 68-year-old Tzvi Ainsworth. The identity of the third person recovered, as well as the person found during the day, have not yet been released.
According to the mayor, 117 people remain unaccounted for.
She said the demolition Sunday night did not seriously affect the mound of debris from the initial collapse.
“Only dust landed on the existing pile,” she said. “Around midnight, work commenced on the pile. By 1 a.m., we were in full search-and-rescue operation mode.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis said the demolition will assist in those search efforts.
“You can now use heavy machinery to get rid of the rubble where we know that was not part of the original collapse,” he said. “Had that building fallen over the original pile, well then evidentiary issues, the search issues, all of that would have been much more difficult.”
On Sunday, Levine Cava had said the goal will remain search-and-rescue, with careful measures taken amid severe weather conditions.
“Bringing down this building in a controlled manner is critical to expanding our scope and search-and-rescue efforts, and allowing us to explore the area closest to the building, which has currently not been accessible,” she said.
On Monday, she said she wanted to stress that crews did everything in their power to make sure there were no pets left inside, including by conducting multiple sweeps of the building and searching under beds and in closets.
She said they also “used ladders, cranes and placed live animal traps on balconies at great personal risk to our first responders.”
Miami-Dade Police also alerted Monday evening to a change for drivers in the area.
Harding Avenue has been opened completely to traffic.
Collins Avenue remains closed between 83rd Street and 90th Street.
#UPDATE 56: TRAFFIC ALERT— Miami-Dade Police (@MiamiDadePD) July 6, 2021
Effective immediately Harding Ave will be open to north & southbound traffic. Traffic going northbound on Collins will be diverted to Harding from 83rd to 90th Street. Collins Ave from 83rd to 90th Street remains closed. Expect traffic delays in the area pic.twitter.com/JcKwJLHvrM
As Tropical Storm Elsa appears to still be tracking west of South Florida, Levine Cava said the storm system is still expected to bring heavy winds and rain to the area later on Monday and Tuesday.
REPLAY: Remaining structure at Champlain Towers South demolished (video feed courtesy of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue)
A leader of the Israeli search-and-rescue operations on the ground said he no longer believes there are any building collapse survivors under the rubble.
“The circumstances that we saw the last few days are too difficult for me to say professionally that I believe that there is a solid chance to find somebody alive,” Col. Golan Vach said.
Vach said he has told families of the victims that they are “trying to be hopeful, but realistic at the same time.”