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The South Florida Roundup

Incoming Storm, Shifting Debris Complicate Search Effort In Surfside

Rescue workers rubble 6_28_21 Jose Iglesias.jpeg
Jose A. Iglesias/Miami Herald
On June 28, rescue workers dig through the rubble with the aid of a backhoe at the site of the collapsed condominium in Surfside.

With potential impacts from Hurricane Elsa on the way, Miami-Dade County emergency management officials are preparing for a storm on top of a catastrophic building collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.

We spoke with some of those officials about the latest in the search-and-rescue efforts on the South Florida Roundup. Friday's show also included discussion of how homeowners and condo associations are responding to the collapse at the Champlain Towers South building, and perspective from journalists at the Miami Herald and Wall Street Journal who have been at the scene day in and day out.

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County leaders say more evacuations might be necessary in Surfside, depending on the still-uncertain track and strength of the impending storm.

In high winds, debris and other objects can become dangerous projectiles.

"At the onset of this incident, the buildings adjacent to the Champlain Tower were evacuated, and even some were voluntarily evacuated," said Charles Cyrille, Miami-Dade County's deputy incident commander for the collapse.

"We think we have an appropriate debris field," Cyrille said, "and depending on the strength and track of the storm, that may be expanded as necessary."

He also said engineers are studying whether the remaining part of the building can withstand hurricane-force winds.

"There's a lot of uncertainty with Elsa and its potential impacts here," Cyrille said.

Shifting debris was the culprit behind a 15-hour pause in the rescue effort on Thursday, Cyrille said on the South Florida Roundup.

Rescue equipment on site detected movement, halting rescuers' work. Officials worried the remaining part of the condo building could be unstable.

"The subject matter experts determined that it wasn't actually the structure that was moving, but the debris," said Cyrille. "Some of that debris triggered the slight movement, the vibrations."

Once ensuring the building was sound, the rescue efforts resumed.

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Daniel Rivero is a reporter and producer for WLRN, covering Latino and criminal justice issues. Before joining the team, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion.
Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.