Search and rescue workers at the Chaplain Tower collapse site have battled massive tons of debris, persistent fires, daily thunderstorms and countless other obstacles in a frantic fight against time to find any possible survivors of this horrible tragedy.
This morning rescue efforts were paused due to structural issues with the remaining building.
According to Fox News, crews reported a column on the portion of the building still standing had moved eight to ten inches and that the cracks were expanding.
And now Mother Nature threatens to throw even more at them.
Tropical Storm Elsa is speeding toward the Caribbean, with South Florida in her sights. The winds and rains of even a weak tropical storm could bring rescue efforts to a further standstill, if it continues on its projected path. Crews would need to be moved to safety, as would the heavy machinery being used to clear the debris.
Wednesday Miami-Dade Emergency Management Director Frank Rollason told weather.com via email, “Should a tropical storm or hurricane be forecasted, we will make arrangements for our first responders to be located in a safe location within a sensible time frame to allow them to stop operations and locate their equipment in a safe location. Once the storm clears and it is once again safe to return to the tasks at hand they would do so. Those safe-harbor plans are being developed as I write this.”
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center calls for tropical storm force winds to possibly arrive at the southern tip of Florida as early as Sunday evening.
According to weather.com forecasters at the National Weather Service said in an advisory this morning they expect the storm to move across the Caribbean tomorrow and over the Fourth of July weekend, nearing Cuba late Sunday and into Monday. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.
Adding even another worry and potential huge setback for rescue efforts, officials are concerned the still-standing portions of Champlain Towers South, which are already faltering, cannot survive tropical storm force winds and could collapse, according to a report this morning in the Miami Herald.
T.J. Lyon, chair of Florida’s Statewide Emergency Response Plan, told The Weather Channel that the building’s integrity is uncertain in a tropical storm.
“Any bad weather is going to have a significant impact on the incident scene,” T.J. Lyon, chair of Florida’s Statewide Emergency Response Plan, told weather.com Wednesday.
“They’re prepared for that and if they have to pull the people off the (debris) pile, believe me, it’ll be hard to do this. Those firefighters, men and women, they want one thing and that’s to rescue,” he said.
Of course, this latest news is just adding to the enormous emotional stress on everyone involved with this tragedy. Yesterday was especially difficult as the bodies of a mother and her two daughters, ages four and ten, were pulled from the debris. According to the latest update 18 are dead and 145 missing.