SURFSIDE, Fla. – A week and a half ago, unimaginable destruction in Surfside leading to an unprecedented decision for what appeared to be an unerring demolition.
Around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, what remained of Champlain Towers South came down in a matter of seconds.
“I think it went perfectly,” said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. “I think the objective was to keep it off the existing debris pile, get it to fall down without impinging upon any of the streets and buildings.”
The planning began just days prior.
The search and rescue efforts were paused as demolition experts began preparing the building by boring holes and strategically placing explosives to bring the building down in its place.
Officials say the looming uncertainty of Tropical Storm Elsa, unstable weather conditions and an unstable structure forced their hand.
“We basically cleared, it think, a lot of the remaining hurdles,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “You can now use heavy machinery to get rid of the rubble where we know that was not part of the original collapse. Had that building fallen over the original pile, well, then evidentiary issues, the search issues, all of that would have been much more difficult.”
The demolition ushered in another chapter and challenge for 64-year-old Iliana Monteagudo, who lost everything when the initial collapse claimed her home.
She narrowly escaped when the building came down, racing downstairs from her sixth floor unit as walls began to crumble.
On Sunday, Monteagudo and her son watched the demolition from a hotel room, paid for by the Red Cross.
“She was able to save up all her life to buy there,” said Manny Frade, Monteagudo’s son. “Well, she can’t do that again.”
It wasn’t long after the controlled demolition that first responders were back to work on top of and underneath the initial collapse rubble.
“There’s a renewed passion on the site right now,” Burkett said. “The rescue workers are supercharged, the dogs are out there, the heavy equipment is out there. We are throwing every single resource at this pile. We want to pull people out of that rubble and reunite them with their families, and we’re not going to stop until that gets done.”
With rescue efforts resumed, Monteagudo wonders where she’ll go from here, who will actually help her, and when.
“Don’t forget the people that survive, because we have to start our lives again, most of us from zero,” she said.
To visit a GoFundMe page created to help Monteagudo, click here.