What We Know About the Miami Condo Collapse

Miami Condo Collapse BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald.

The partial collapse of a 12-story residential condo in Miami-Dade County on June 25 has shocked the community.

The partial collapse occurred around 1:15 a.m. local time Thursday at the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small coastal town of Surfside, about 10 miles north of Miami Beach, ABC News reported. Approximately 55 of the 136 units at the beachfront complex were destroyed, according to Miami-Dade Fire Department Deputy Chief Raide Jadallah.

So far, 134 people living or staying at the condo at the time of the partial collapse have been accounted for, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. The latter said the numbers are very fluid.

After five days of search and rescue, authorities count nine dead and 152 missing, but the hope of finding more people alive persists.

According to Jadallah, last week, rescue teams cleared the rest of the structure still standing, and since then, all resources have been focused on the rubble. Hundreds of rescue workers and volunteers have been working around the clock to locate survivors, and human remains in the rubble. According to Levine Cava, crews have opened a trench 6 meters long, 6 meters wide, and 6 meters deep to facilitate the search.

And help has come from the least expected places.

As reported by Reuters, search and rescue teams from Mexico and Israel have joined the rescue efforts, reflecting the international character of the Miami area. Although the exact roles of the Mexican and Israeli teams have not been detailed, local authorities said the support has allowed them to rotate rescue teams and keep personnel fresh.

Built in the 1980s, Champlain Towers South was due for its 40-year recertification. According to Surfside officials, it had undergone work on the roof at the time of the partial collapse, with more renovations planned.

As the New York Times reported, specialists have called the Champlain Towers South collapse “the deadliest accidental building collapse in U.S. history.” The so-called “progressive collapse” is under investigation. So far, engineers intuit that the gradual spread of failure could have occurred for various reasons, including design flaws or the less robust construction allowed under building codes from four decades ago when the complex was built.

“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” said Donald O. Dusenberry, a consulting engineer who has investigated many structural collapses, to the Times. “It’s not like there’s a failure high, and it pancaked down.”

While several bridges, overpasses, and buildings under construction fail each year, the catastrophic collapse of an occupied building — short of a bomb or earthquake — is rare, and investigators are struggling to understand how it could have occurred with so little urgent notice, the NYT continued.

“It would be like a lightning strike happening,” said Charles W. Burkett, the mayor of Surfside, Fla., where the collapse occurred. “It’s not at all a common occurrence to have a building fall down in America,” he said. “There was something very, very wrong with this situation.”

A class-action lawsuit was filed late Thursday on behalf of resident Manuel Drezner and “all others similarly situated,” alleging that the partial collapse could have been prevented if the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association had made the necessary repairs and ensured the building’s safety. The lawsuit, believed to be the first filed in response to the partial collapse, seeks $5 million in damages.