Death Toll Rises to 5 in Florida Building Collapse

Florida rescue workers Saturday found the body of a fifth person, three days after a 12-story condominium building collapsed, leaving 156 people unaccounted for according to Daniella Levine Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

“Our top priority continues to be search and rescue and saving any lives that we can,” she said as workers continued to use rescue dogs and sonar to find survivors in the South building of the Champlain Towers condominium complex.

According to The Miami Herald, Levine Cara has announced an immediate audit of all area high-rises more than 40 years old and taller than five stories. Her order also includes audit of structures built by the developer of the Champlain Towers.

Voluntary evacuations of residents have begun at Champlain Towers North and East.  The North is the “sister” building to the collapsed South building, having been built at the same time and with a comparable design. The buildings are in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida.

Earlier Saturday, Cava said a fire deep in the rubble was hampering efforts to find and rescue people.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the underground blaze was probably caused by “fuel of the cars getting crushed and fluid leaking out.”  The condominium building had a garage below it.

The New York Times reported earlier Saturday that a 3-year-old engineer’s report on the collapsed building said it had “major structural damage” on the concrete slab below the pool deck.

In addition, the engineer observed “abundant” cracking and crumbling in the walls, beams and columns of the parking garage located under the building, according to the newspaper.

The report, the Times said, was the basis for “a multimillion-dollar repair project that was set to get under way soon.”

The newspaper said municipal officials released the engineer’s report late Friday.

The 2018 report did not give any evidence that the building was about to collapse but it did say “most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion.”

The Washington Post, citing a study conducted last year, reported the building was constructed on reclaimed wetlands on the barrier island that makes up the Miami Beach area and has been gradually sinking since the 1990s.

It is unclear if those factors contributed to the incident.

U.S. President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for the site, which will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts and supply additional funds.

“My heart is with the community of Surfside as they grieve their lost loved ones and wait anxiously as search and rescue efforts continue,” Biden tweeted.

Biden spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday and said the federal government stands ready to provide additional resources if needed.

The Associated Press and the Reuters news service contributed to this report.

Author: Pascal