Florida officials said on Saturday that they were rushing to demolish the part of Champlain Towers South that is still standing because of worries that the partially collapsed structure would not withstand the powerful winds of an approaching tropical storm.
“It’s structurally unsound,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said of the building during a morning news briefing.
Officials said preparations for the demolition could be completed within roughly 36 hours, allowing for the building to be brought down before Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to reach South Florida.
Demolition could begin as early as Sunday, according to Mayor Charles W. Burkett of Surfside.
Mr. DeSantis acknowledged the added hardship the demolition would create for families who had fled the collapse, leaving behind most of their possessions. But he said the danger the building posed left no other option.
“At the end of the day, that building is too unsafe to let people go back in,” the governor said. “I know there’s a lot of people who were able to get out, fortunately, who have things there. We’re very sensitive to that. But I don’t think that there’s any way you could let someone go back up into that building given the shape that it’s in now.”
Mr. DeSantis said that while Surfside was not expected to bear the brunt of the storm, the city could still experience strong winds and heavy rain. Elsa was downgraded to a tropical storm from a Category 1 hurricane as it battered Caribbean islands. It could reach Florida as early as Monday, causing flooding and possible tornadoes.
Officials said a Maryland-based contractor, Controlled Demolition Inc., would use explosives to bring the remainder of the building down, and that the demolition would cause the “most minimal interruption” of search and rescue work at the site.
Emergency responders are continuing to work on Saturday, according to the Miami-Dade fire chief, Alan Cominsky, but have been unable to expand operations to any additional parts of the building.