The partially collapsed Miami-area apartment where 24 people were confirmed dead was destroyed on Sunday night, ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa’s probable arrival.
Search-and-rescue efforts for 121 people missing have been suspended. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters earlier on Sunday that rescue efforts would resume after the demolition, noting it was 11 days since the collapse.
Video footage showed the 12-storey building collapsing downward and throwing up plumes of smoke.
Tropical Storm Elsa was 95 kilometres per hour off the coast of Cuba as of Sunday afternoon. After passing over Cuba on Sunday and Monday, the storm was expected to make landfall in western Florida on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Workers drilled through columns where tiny explosive charges were set to bring the remnants of the Champlain Towers South complex in Surfside down in a confined area, officials said.
Residents in neighbouring buildings were not required to evacuate, but were advised to remain indoors and switch off their air conditioning due to dust.
Instead of the usual fireworks and flag-waving parties, beachside communities in the area planned more subdued events for the Fourth of July. Miami Beach cancelled its Independence Day celebrations.
Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the 40-year-old complex to collapse on June 24. A 2018 engineering assessment discovered structural flaws, which are currently the subject of investigations that include a grand jury investigation.
Residents of another building, Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach, were instructed to leave immediately on Friday after engineers discovered significant concrete and electrical issues, according to officials.
North Miami Beach City Manager Arthur Sorey said the transfer was considered urgent due to Elsa’s approach, and that the building’s owners had not yet completed a mandated safety recertification process required 40 years after it was erected.
“It’s definitely not an easy decision,” Sorey said. “It’s just the right thing to do during these times. It’s uncertain what’s going to happen with the storm.”