SURFSIDE, Fla. — Crews used explosives late Sunday night to demolish the remaining structure at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla.
The heavily damaged condo building was knocked down at about 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.
The targeted blast caused the tower to fold and crumble, sending a large plume of dust and debris over a section of the beachside community. A crowd watching from a distance prayed as the building came down.
Before the structure was leveled, Miami-Dade County police urged residents who live nearby to remain indoors and shelter in place.
Miami-Dade County officials said removing the tower was an essential step so search and rescue teams could resume scouring the rubble pile for victims of the disaster.
Officials suspended recovery efforts on Saturday because of concerns about the danger posed by the unstable building.
"It will be safe to resume the search activities very shortly after the blast and that's when we'll resume it," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava at a press conference Sunday evening.
Demolition of the tower was also accelerated because of Tropical Storm Elsa, which could hit South Florida with high winds and heavy rains as early as Monday.
Search efforts had been ongoing since the morning of June 24, when much of the 12-story condo complex suffered a "progressive collapse" and dozens of apartments were reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds.
The number of confirmed dead from the disaster remains at 24, with the number of people unaccounted for at 121.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told reporters Sunday the demolition of the remaining tower added to the sorrow for families who lived in the complex, destroying homes and possessions.
"So often demolitions of buildings are a spectacle, it's almost like a show," Schultz said. "This demolition is a tragic situation."
Local officials assured former residents and the public that everything possible had been done to rescue pets left behind in the structure.
"Folks can be comfortable we're not leaving anyone behind, including our beloved pets," Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told reporters.
Multiple investigations are already underway into the cause of the collapse.
Documents acquired by NPR from an anonymous source show the condo association's board received warnings from an engineering firm beginning in 2018 that the structure needed extensive repairs.
A memo sent by the association to Champlain Towers South residents ahead of a May 2021 board meeting acknowledged the "desperate needs of the building."