As search and rescue crews temporarily paused operations at the site of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium on Saturday ahead of the demolition of the remainder of the building, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett paid tribute to the community that had rallied together.
"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 was cited as saying by Fox News.
The mayor weighed in on the concerns expressed by residents of the sister tower, located about a block away and built a year after the collapsed building in 1982. Many were still unsure whether to stay in their homes or evacuate.
Burkett said a charity that has already raised more than $3 million was prepared to cover the costs of alternative housing for those eager to move out.
Meanwhile, a "top-to-bottom review" of the structure is to be carried out, expected to take about 30 days.
"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 assured.
Something ‘Very Wrong’
Over a week has passed since the tragedy on 24 June that left at least 24 people dead, with the possibility of many more fatalities as authorities said on 3 July that as many as 124 people remained missing. It is still being determined how many people were actually in the building when it folded.
The beach-side building was erected in 1981, was 13 stories tall and had 135 units, at least half of which collapsed.
Part of the collapsed building that is still standing will be demolished in the coming days as there have been fears it might not withstand the onslaught of Tropical Storm Elsa 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. And, of course, with these gusts, potentially that would create a really severe hazard," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference.
As an investigation continues into the reasons for the building’s collapse, experts who have examined video footage suggest a single failure could have set off what has been termed as “progressive collapse”.
Everything from design flaws to insufficiently robust construction due to building codes acceptable four decades ago has been cited amid speculations on the causes of the tragedy.
"It suggests that there are voids," says Surfside, FL Mayor Charles Burkett of the discovery of tunnels beneath the rubble.— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) June 30, 2021
"Voids are good. Voids mean there's a safe space for someone who, with good luck, could be in there and could hopefully be waiting for us to extract them." pic.twitter.com/cn12hEvcIl
The building had been about to undergo extensive repairs as part of a review and recertification process for 40-year-old buildings, Kenneth S. Direktor, a lawyer involved in the project, was cited as saying by media.
In a 2018 report, which has been cited by outlets since the tragedy struck, a consultant had discovered evidence of “major structural damage” to the concrete slab below the pool deck. Furthermore, concerns had been triggered by the “abundant” cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage under the building.
"Buildings in the United States just do not fall down. 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," said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.