Officials have made extensive efforts to find missing pets in the Surfsidecondo collapse prior to its demolition on Sunday, according to Miami-DadeMayor Daniella Levine Cava.
During an interview with The Miami Herald on Monday, Levine Cava said firstresponders did all they could to find animals who were left behind in theChamplain Towers South Condo before Sunday night’s demolition.
The Florida condo, which collapsed on June 24, was demolished in a controlledexplosion at 10:30 p.m. ET following concerns about the structure falling asTropical Storm Elsa approached. Since then, 11 bodies have been found in therubble, bringing the death toll to 36.
“They were, at great risk to themselves, searching inside those units that hadbeen indicated that might have pets and searching very thoroughly,” LevineCava told the Herald. “Doorways were opened, other means for the pets toescape the building if they were able.”
“We deployed drones with thermal imaging on numerous trips over the rubblepile and standing in the tower, in areas unsafe for search and rescue teams toenter,” she added.
Levine Cava’s statement seemingly came in response to her press conference onSaturday, in which she said search teams would not go into specific apartmentunits to search for missing pets before the demolition, according to theHerald.
At the time, the mayor reasoned her decision by explaining, “It is not safefor anyone to go beyond the first floor,” the outlet reported.
Levine Cava also said during a press conference that day that search andrescue teams performed three separate searches and found no animals, accordingto The New York Post.
“I was informed this morning that they did a sweep with cameras and found noanimals at this time,” she explained, per the Post.
“We took every action that we possibly could to search for any pets, anyanimals in the building prior to the demolition,” she continued. “In the dayssince the collapse, the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue team conducted multiple, fullsweeps of the building in person, including searching in closets and underbeds and other hiding places. In the areas of the building that were notaccessible to the teams, they used ladders on high-lift cranes and they placedlive animal traps on the balconies at great personal risk to our firstresponders.”
In response, surviving pet owners expressed concerns, arguing that knockingdown the standing portion of the building without checking specific unitswould kill any animals that are still alive and hiding.
Some of those missing pets included a cat named Mia, who belonged to survivingresident Susana Alvarez, a dog named Edgar, belonging to surviving residentAngela Gonzalez, and a guinea pig owned by missing resident Nicole Langsfeld,according to the Post.
Following Levine Cava’s announcement, a petition on Change.org was launchedSaturday, calling for demolition plans to be halted until all missing petswere reunited with the owners. Over 18,000 people signed the petition beforeit was closed.
An animal rescue volunteer, identified as Paula Phillips, also attempted topause the demolition on Sunday with an emergency motion that would allow herto enter the building and rescue the pets, but a Miami-Dade judge denied themotion, the Post reported.
Arthur Holmes Jr., the assistant county fire chief for operations, confirmedpet search efforts were conducted hours before the building was knocked down,according to the outlet.
He said a firefighter “went from the second floor to the eighth floor,searching multiple units” and swept through the balconies of remainingstructures to check for any pets, per the Herald.
At this time, it is unclear how many pets were living in the Champlain TowersSouth Condo prior to the collapse and if any owners have since been reunitedwith their animals
Image: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue/Twitter The aftermath of the collapse of theSurfside Condo
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