DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)– Ohio Task Force 1 is awaiting new orders now that emergency officials plan to demolish whatever remains of the partially-collapsed Champlain Towers. Right now the death toll stands at 24 people; more than 120 people are still missing.
Their mission is to recover as many people as possible but due to the pending tropical storm Elsa. Florida’s local jurisdiction has decided to demolish the rest of the standing tower which the Ohio Task Force says could happen any moment. Search and rescue teams feared the storm could bring down the building and set the rescue mission further behind.
“A large chunk of the area where we would be helping to recover those people have been quartered off because the building is still standing and it is very unstable,” said OTF1 Program Manager Evan Schumann. “All the engineers have expressed concern and say this is not a safe environment.”
Ohio Task Force 1 has been converted into a Rapid Intervention Team in case the building falls suddenly and is currently helping clear the area. Search efforts have been mostly postponed on the pile.
“Even when we were out there, every now and then you’d see concrete fall off and onto the ground and they are making sure we have to stay away from that part of the building,” said Schumann. “By bringing the building down, that will very much help make it safer to get into the collapsed site now where we expect to find a lot more people.”
Task Force leaders say the destruction is taking a toll on them similar to the 9\11 tower attack.
“The good news is that much of the leadership was part of 9/11 so they’ve done an excellent job of leading the response here, but they are also in charge of keeping awareness of people’s mental health, not just their physical health,” said Schumann.
Ohio Task Force is one of five FEMA teams deployed with Virginia Task Force 2 from Virginia Beach, Indiana Task Force 1 from Indianapolis, Pennsylvania Task Force 1 from Philadelphia and New Jersey’s State Highway Patrol that embodies the New Jersey Task Force 1. Additionally, leaders say they are anticipating staying roughly two weeks or until help is no longer needed.