Rescue workers continue their work after the still-standing portion of the partially collapsed multi-story tower in Surfside, Florida, was taken down via controlled demolition over the weekend, officials said. Fire officials confirmed on July 5 that four more bodies were pulled from the rubble, bringing the death toll to 28.
Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah notified the families of those missing of the discoveries on July 5, reported The Associated Press. Another 117 people are still missing.
Authorities used explosives on July 4 to take down what was left of the building—coming about a week after the Champlain Towers South structure partially collapsed.
The controlled demolition, said Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, was needed so that rescue crews could search for any possible survivors of the collapse.
“Bringing down this building in a controlled manner is critical to expanding the scope of our search-and-rescue effort,” Cava told reporters. On July 5, she told the “Today” show that rescue crews started working again late on July 4.
Before the demolition was carried out, local officials expressed hope that it would remove a potentially dangerous threat to workers and open up a portion of the remaining rubble pile.
However, the mayor noted that the probability of workers finding anyone still alive after more than a week is slim.
“Families realize that time has gone by; they realize that the chances are growing dimmer and dimmer,” Cava said.
Another official involved in the search-and-rescue effort provided a more grim outlook.
Col. Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit, told CNN that the chance of finding people alive is “close to zero,” but added: “We are still full of hope. This hope keeps us very active, and we scale up each day.”
“We wake up in the morning … with a lot of energy to find the loved ones, alive or not alive,” he said on July 5.
The development comes as Tropical Storm Elsa is churning in the Caribbean and is expected to target areas in Florida in the coming days, according to the National Hurricane Center. Some officials feared that the standing portion of the partially collapsed building—if left standing—would be toppled by the storm.
“It appears as though the approaching storm may have been a blessing in disguise for us in that it initiated the demolition discussion,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told CNN on July 4. “We want to make sure that we control which way the building falls and not a hurricane, so all of this together I think ended up being a good thing.”
Following the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers building, there has been increased scrutiny on construction integrity in the area. A government audit last week revealed that around two dozen buildings have unsafe violations, while on July 2, authorities in nearby North Miami Beach ordered the shutdown and evacuation of a high-rise building over structural concerns.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect the latest death toll as of late July 5.