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The death toll from a Florida condo collapse rose to 22; Another Florida condo building deemed unsafe, ordered eviction

Crews looking for survivors in the rubble of a condo that collapsed outside Miami last week found more bodies on Friday, raising the number of confirmed deaths to 22 as 126 people remain missing.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she has signed off on the demolition of the part of the building that remains standing because it poses a threat to public health and safety, although no date has yet been set for the demolition. The top priority remains search and rescue, she said.

Earlier Friday Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett worried that Hurricane Elsa, which forecasters say could hit south Florida with heavy rains, strong winds, tornadoes and storm surge in coming days, could “demolish it for us.”

“And if that happens – and it just happens to blow it the wrong direction – it could be a mess of immense proportion,” he said.

Levine Cava said plans to demolish the structure would not be finalized ahead of Elsa’s potential landfall.

Concerns about the stability of the remaining structure pushed officials to suspend rescue efforts Thursday for about 14 hours. On-site engineers identified one column that had shifted 6 to 12 inches and three cracks that were expanding in the building, which looms over the search-and-rescue teams sifting through large heaps of rubble near its base.

Another Florida condo building deemed unsafe, evacuation ordered

The city of North Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a condominium building Friday after a review found unsafe conditions about 5 miles from the site of last week’s deadly collapse in South Florida.

The city said in a news release that an audit prompted by the collapse of Champlain Towers South in nearby Surfside found the 156-unit Crestview Towers structurally and electrically unsafe.

Another Florida condo building deemed unsafe, evacuation ordered

The city of North Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a condominium building Friday after a review found unsafe conditions about 5 miles from the site of last week’s deadly collapse in South Florida.

The city said in a news release that an audit prompted by the collapse of Champlain Towers South in nearby Surfside found the 156-unit Crestview Towers structurally and electrically unsafe.

That’s because the Florida Legislature is reluctant to pass laws that slow down condominium construction and sales, says Glazer, who also has a condo blog and weekly one-hour radio show about condominium law.

“Florida will do anything to help developers build and sell units and all responsibility is passed onto the unit owners after the sale,” Glazer said. “There is almost a hands-off approach when it comes to structural integrity.”

Hurricane Elsa hampers rescue efforts

Friday morning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on-site teams are preparing for potential tropical storm force winds and heavy rainfall that may come as early as midday Sunday. Atlantic tropical storms pack maximum sustained surface winds of 39 to 73 mph.

DeSantis said he is putting together a potential emergency order.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service will be on site to Friday to brief the search teams, Levine Cava said.

Robert Molleda, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said Elsa should emerge off the coast of Cuba by Sunday night or Monday morning.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the forecast: how it will evolve, how the storm will interact with the land areas that are to our south,” Molleda said.

“And that could affect not only the intensity, or how strong the storm is, but also the track that it takes,” he added.

Possible severe weather may further delay search and rescue efforts, Kevin Guthrie of the Florida Division of Emergency Management said earlier this week. His team is working with the National Hurricane Center and state meteorologists to develop contingency plans for severe weather.

Rescuers were already coping with near-daily thunderstorms and lightning, which forced suspensions of rescue efforts.

Heavy rains Thursday night led to muddy conditions and pools of water in the streets and parking lots surrounding the collapse site on Friday. More rain is expected to move in early Friday afternoon through the evening, creating even more dangerous situations for rescuers.

Extensive concrete damaged found last fall, but repair efforts were suspended

In a summary of work performed in October by Morabito Consultants, the company reported extensive concrete deterioration and corrosion of reinforcement at Champlain Towers South. It discovered several issues, including potentially deep deterioration of concrete near the pool area.

Full restoration and repair work “could not be performed” because the pool “was to remain in service for the duration of the work” and because the necessary aggressive excavation of concrete at the pool “could affect the stability of the remaining adjacent concrete constructions.”

Experts cautioned it’s unlikely the findings in the report reveal the root cause of the building collapse, which remains unknown. However, documents obtained by USA TODAY reveal new clues about the building’s dramatic state of disrepair.

This report included issues with the wall and edge of the swimming pool, a deteriorated stair column, core samples of the building’s structural concrete slab, holes cut to investigate problems with soffits over the garage and demolition of deteriorated concrete in balcony soffits and stucco.

Of these, only two actual repairs were done: of the deteriorating stair column and removal of deteriorated concrete and stucco from the balconies.

Condo collapse:Workers discovered extensive concrete damage and suspended a repair effort last fall

‘We’ve come together’:Biden meets with DeSantis, families missing loved ones in deadly condo collapse in Florida

Rescue efforts resume after temporary pause; potential demolition

Work restarted Thursday afternoon after a 14-hour pause due to concerns about the stability of the part of the building still standing. On-site engineers had identified one column that had shifted 6 to 12 inches and three cracks were expanding.

Levine Cava said Thursday that plans were underway for the “likely” demolition of this portion of the remaining building. But experts said it could be a while before there’s a timeline for demolition.

FEMA’s search and rescue incident support team was working with local officials to look at different plans for demolishing the remaining structure, said Scott Nachman, the team’s structure specialist.

In a “best-case scenario,” it would take weeks to establish a demolition timeline, he said.

With Hurricane Elsa speeding toward Florida, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said he wants to fast-track the possible demolition of the remaining section of Champlain Towers South.

“In most cases, setting up for a demolition is a time-consuming effort in testing and making that sure it doesn’t have asbestos. There’s a list of things that you do. But we’ve got a potential hurricane coming that’s going to demolish it for us,” Burkett said.

“And if that happens — and it just happens to blow it the wrong direction — it could be a mess of immense proportion,” he added.

Survivors worry about missing pets

The Friends of Miami Animals Foundation set up a hotline soon after the Surfside building collapsed last Thursday so that people who had to evacuate or were rescued could report their pets missing or ask for medical assistance and boarding for their animals.

Since then, there have been around 100 calls, said Yolanda Berkowitz, founder and president of the Friends of Miami Animals Foundation. So far, several parakeets, at least three cats, a guinea pig and a dog have been officially reported missing.

Many of the calls also come from people upset with what they perceive as limited animal rescue efforts. People have also volunteered to go into the evacuated buildings themselves and attempt a rescue.

“Animals are a priority, but you can’t put people at risk to go up to a balcony and set a cat trap,” Berkowitz told USA TODAY, adding that the first responders must also be kept safe.

“My guess is they’re only doing what they have to do to recover bodies and help people,” Berkowitz  added. “I know if [the first responders] had seen any animals they would have attempted to get them out.”

Mexican search-and-rescue team Los Topos Azteca not utilized

The Mexican search-and-rescue team Los Topos Azteca flew to Florida earlier this week to assist with search and rescue missions. But they haven’t been utilized.

“I know we made arrangements, unfortunately, for them to come out that one day and it was unsuccessful,” said Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky.

Cominsky said Friday while the team did “come out” one day, they didn’t actually work on the site. He said it’s the result of a “disconnect” between Los Topos and on-the-ground officials and responders.

Cominsky added that he is not deploying additional international resources to rescue efforts right now. He said he doesn’t want to add any international resources to the efforts when he doesn’t know if members of Los Topos are going to remain in Surfside.

The experts who are part of the Israeli Defense Forces have been allowed to help. Cominsky said that’s because they were there before and he believes their services were arranged through elected officials.

“I definitely appreciate them coming out and offering their efforts but it’s a very, very delicate scene, an ongoing scene and so that’s why they haven’t been utilized,” Cominsky said.

Remembering those who died

Of the 22 people confirmed dead, authorities released these names: Stacie Fang, 54; Marcus Joseph Guara, 52, his wife Anaely Rodriguez, 42, and their daughters Lucia Guara, 10, and Emma Guara, 4; Frank Kleiman, 55; Michael Davis Altman, 50; Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and his wife, Christina Beatriz Elvira de Oliwkowicz, 74; Luis Bermudez, 26, and his mother, Ana Ortiz, 46; Antonio Lozano, 83, and his wife Gladys Lozano, 79; Manuel LaFont, 54; and Hilda Noriega, 92.

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