The demolition of the collapsed Miami apartment block has been brought forward to secure the site ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa.

Search efforts were halted as a precaution as work on the demolition got underway.

“Our top priority is bringing down this building,” Daniella Levine Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, said on Sunday.

“As soon as the building does come down and site has been deemed secure, our search and rescue teams will immediately resume operations.”

Officials said the search would resume within minutes of the demolition being completed. It is scheduled for Sunday between 10pm and 3am local time (2am and 7am Monday GMT).

As Florida enters the hurricane season, there are fears that the remnants of the block could become more unstable, posing a threat to fire and rescue teams.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis said the demolition was necessary to protect them.

"We don’t know when it could fall over. With these gusts that would create a real severe hazard,” he said.

“Given the fact that the storm is coming, it is the prudent thing to do.”

The storm, in which winds are expected to reach 75mph, is bearing down on Florida and could make landfall early in the week.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the danger was that the storm could scatter debris over the area where survivors are being sought.

“The fear was that the hurricane may take the building down for us, and take it down in the wrong direction,” he said.

It is hoped that the demolition will help the emergency services get at parts of the structure that have up until now been inaccessible.

At least 24 people are known to have died after the block collapsed on June 24. Another 121 people remain unaccounted for.

On Sunday night Miami-Dade Police revealed the identity of another victim killed in the collapsed building as 58-year-old David Epstein.

#UPDATE 49: We have identified an additional victim that sadly and unexpectedly lost his life in the tragic Surfside building collapse. Please keep his family and loved ones in your prayers.

— Miami-Dade Police (@MiamiDadePD) July 4, 2021

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said preparatory work had begun on demolition.

Holes have been drilled in the foundations which will be filled with explosives.

The intention is to bring the building down within its existing footprint.

Residents in Surfside, the neighbourhood in which the block was located, have been urged to stay inside.

They have also been advised to shut their windows and switch off the air-conditioning to prevent dust from seeping inside.

#UPDATE 51: The demolition of Champlain Towers South will take place tonight between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.

We urge residents who live in the Shelter in Place Zone – between 86th St and 89th St and Abbott Ave and the shoreline – to stay indoors effective immediately.

— Miami-Dade Police (@MiamiDadePD) July 4, 2021