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Search Efforts Remain Paused In Surfside As Officials Race To Prepare Demolition

An American flag flies from a crane on July 4th next to the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of victims remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed.
An American flag flies from a crane on July 4th next to the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of victims remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed.

Preparations continue in Surfside, Fla. for the demolition of a portion of the Champlain Towers South still standing after much of the building collapsed in the early morning hours on June 24.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters on Sunday that bringing down the remainder of the collapsed condominium in a controlled fashion is crucial to the safety of search and rescue teams.

Those teams have paused their work so demolition can take place. Levine Cava said officials are still unsure of a specific time that the demolition will occur.

"Our top priority is that the building can come down as soon as possible — no matter what time that occurs — and safely as possible," Levine Cava said at a morning news conference.

The number of confirmed dead from the collapse remains at 24. The number of people unaccounted for remains at 121.

Preparations for the demolition come as Tropical Storm Elsa is tracking towards southern Florida. The storm is expected to hit the area Monday and Tuesday.

The instability of the building could be made worse by the storm, which is expected to bring strong winds and rain at the beginning of the week. Mayor Levine Cava said that as soon as the demolition has occurred, search and rescue efforts are expected to resume.

Ahead of Elsa's arrival in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency Saturday for 15 counties, including Miami-Dade.

On Sunday, he expressed optimism that the Surfside area may be spared from the worst of the storm.

"We could see some gusts, but it has tracked west over the last day and a half — more so than the initial forecast," he said. "So, we'll just keep watching that."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.