A condo building in the South Florida community of Surfside collapsed without warning at approximately 1:30 AM Thursday morning. The loss of life is feared to be catastrophic, with four dead pulled from the rubble so far and another 159 unaccounted for.
“I want to be very clear about the numbers. They are very fluid,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, adding that 120 people have been accounted for.
The cause of the collapse is being investigated.
The collapse was caught on a security camera some distance from the structure.
About 55 of the 136 units at Champlain Towers South crumbled at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, leaving huge piles of rubble on the ground and materials dangling from what remained of the structure, officials said.
The search for dozens of missing people continued Friday morning at the site, a few miles north of Miami Beach. The collapse left at least 99 people unaccounted for as of Thursday afternoon, officials said.
“We’re not giving up,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told CNN Thursday night. “That is the one thing we’re not doing. We’re searching 24 hours a day, and we’re pulling as many people out as we can. That’s the whole goal right now. Nothing else matters.”
Photo Gallery: Building collapse in Surfside. https://t.co/CkouXlMq7s
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) June 24, 2021
The problem is that clearing away the rubble can be a perilous undertaking. It takes time to determine where rescuers can step without bringing more rubble down on anyone trapped beneath.
Rescuers are using dogs as well as listening devices to search for survivors, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue District Chief Jason Richard told CNN.
As rescuers move through the rubble, they are accompanied by structural engineers who determine which spaces are safe and where additional shoring and other materials are needed to ensure the building doesn’t shift or come down onto rescuers, Richard explained.
“So as we move through the building, we constantly monitor, making sure that there’s no movement, every piece of rubble that we move, we have to take, make efforts to stabilize the building, inch by inch,” Richard said.
There may have been one cause of the collapse or several. Paul Zilio, a senior principal with Miami-based structural engineering firm Bliss & Nyitray, lists a few of the possible causes.
He said the building settling, documented in the 1990s to be 2 millimeters (0.08 inches) per year, could have contributed to failure “because if that continued for the 40-year life of the building, the total of over three inches of settlement could certainly contribute to the collapse.”
Ocean sea spray is also a danger, Zilio said: “Over time the saltwater can penetrate the concrete and corrode the reinforcing steel, causing the reinforcing steel to expand. This expansion cracks the concrete and eventually chunks of concrete spall off, weakening the capacity and making the reinforcing steel even more exposed to corrosion.”
Governor DeSantis has declared Surfside a disaster area as has the president, who pledged all the help necessary.
But for many, it will be too late.