THE death toll from the Miami condo disaster rose to 22 on Friday – as exhausted rescuers brace for incoming Hurricane Elsa this weekend.
Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 126 remained unaccounted for as of Friday evening – adding that an emergency order had been signed to tear down the crumbling remains of the building.
Read our Miami Beach building collapse live blog for the very latest news and updates…
On Thursday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said the building's stability led to concerns about the more than 300 people who have been working on the search and rescue mission.
The concrete slabs of the southern part of the 12-story building, the part that did not collapse, appeared to be moving, Cominsky said.
The movement threatens support columns in the underground parking garage.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said that he is preparing for the possibility that the building may have to be demolished, according to WPLG.
"Once the decision is made, I didn't want there to be … another day setting up the demolition if that was the decision, so I directed my building official to start talking to those demolition companies," he said.
The decision will be made by Miami-Dade County Mayor Cava, according to the outlet.
"This is so excruciating for everyone, the waiting and waiting and hoping and praying for the families, especially, of course, and also for the first responders," Cava told CNN.
"This is really their passion. It's a calling for them. They rush back to the scene,
"They don't want to miss any opportunity, any moment to be saving lives. And, so, it's just been a nightmare scenario for everyone involved."
Meanwhile, Hurricane Elsa is expected to hit Florida as early as Sunday evening.
In addition to potentially hampering search and rescue efforts, the storm could also impact the stability of a portion of the building that remains standing.
Florida Gov Ron DeSantis told CNN that the state is working on a "dual-track" with the Surfside, Florida collapse site and Hurricane Elsa possibly hitting South Florida in the coming days.
"We're actively monitoring the situation like we always would do with these storms.
But given what we're doing on this site, we're also paying special attention to any impacts that could happen here in Northeast Miami Dade County," the governor said.
"Our Department of Emergency Management is assuming that that will happen and making the necessary preparations to be able obviously to protect a lot of the equipment.
"You could potentially have an event out with the building, as well."
Concerns over shifting debris and instability at the site shut down work for 15 hours on Thursday.
The category 1 hurricane is expected to slam through the Caribbean late Friday.
Elsa is expected to strengthen in upcoming days and pass near the southern coast of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, on Saturday.
The storm was then expected to move near Jamaica and portions of eastern Cuba on Sunday, though the forecast so far calls for it to remain below hurricane force.
So far, there have been reports of a sustained wind of 74mph with a gust of 86mph.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden paid a visit to the site and praised Mayor Cava and Gov DeSantis for coming together in a time of tragedy to lead Surfside through the aftermath of the tragic collapse, despite their differences in political beliefs.
“This is life and death,” the president said.
"We can do it, just the simple act of everyone doing what needs to be done makes a difference."
Biden pledged to provide any federal assistance needed to deal with the tragedy.
"There’s gonna be a lot of pain and anxiety and suffering and even the need for psychological help in the days and months that follow. And so, we’re not going anywhere.
"Whatever you need pick up the phone – for real. I’m not joking about it," the president said.
Later Thursday, Biden met with first responders who have been working tirelessly to hunt for survivors among the rubble in the seven days since the condo collapsed.
“I just wanted to come down and say thanks,” Biden told a group of uniformed personnel. “What you’re doing now is hard as hell.”
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