More than a week after a 12-story building collapse left at least 24 people dead and more than 100 still unaccounted for, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the horrible tragedy has devastated the town while also bringing out the best in the community.
“It’s been a tale of two cities, where it’s created horror but it’s also brought out the most incredible amount of support and love and charity that you could ever believe,” Burkett told Fox News.
Search and rescue teams had to temporarily pause operations around 4 p.m. on Saturday while engineers assess the rubble and prepare for demolition of the part of the building that still stands, fearing it might not withstand the winds from Tropical Storm Elsa, should it make landfall near the site.
A general view of a partially collapsed residential building as the emergency crews continue search and rescue operations for survivors, in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. June 27, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello
Meanwhile, some residents of the collapsed building’s sister tower, which is located about a block away and was built a year after the collapsed building in 1982, were still deciding whether they should stay in their homes or evacuate.
Burkett said a charity that has already raised more than $3 million will pay for the alternative housing costs of people who want to move out of the sister building while a “top-to-bottom review” of the structure takes place.
“Given that their sister building fell down without explanation, we’re going in there now, and we’re going to be doing extensive, along with the condo association, extensive sort of testing, x-ray testing of the beams, to see how much steel is in the beams, and other structural systems that are there,” Burkett said.
Emergency workers conduct search and rescue efforts at the site of a partially collapsed residential building in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. June 29, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
The review should take about 30 days, at which point officials will have a better idea of the state of the collapsed building’s sister tower.
“Buildings in the United States just do not fall down,” Burkett said. “That’s a third-world phenomenon. There was something very, very wrong with this building and we’re going to find out what it is.”
A nearby 156-unit condo in North Miami Beach was evacuated on Friday after it was deemed structurally and electrically unsafe.
Part of the collapsed building that is still standing will be demolished in the coming days ahead of a tropical storm that is supposed to hit Florida on Tuesday.
“If the building is taken down, this will protect our search and rescue teams, because we don’t know when it could fall over,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference. “And, of course, with these gusts, potentially that would create a really severe hazard.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.