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Surfside condominium building collapse

2021 building collapse in Surfside, Florida, USA

2021 Surfside, Florida, condominium building collapse
Champlain Towers South after the collapse
DateJune 24, 2021 (2021-06-24)
TimeApproximately 1:25 a.m. EDT[a] (UTC−4)
Location
Coordinates25°52′23″N 80°07′15″W / 25.87306°N 80.12083°W / 25.87306; -80.12083Coordinates: 25°52′23″N 80°07′15″W / 25.87306°N 80.12083°W / 25.87306; -80.12083
CauseUnder investigation
Deaths22 (confirmed)
Non-fatal injuries11
Missing126
Building details
General information
Construction started1980
Completed1981
Height48.10 m (157.8 ft)
Technical details
MaterialReinforced concrete
Floor count12 (plus rooftop penthouse)
Design and construction
ArchitectWilliam M. Friedman & Associates Architects Inc.[3][4]
Structural engineerBreiterman Jurado & Associates[4][5]
Main contractorNattel Construction, Inc.[6]
Other information
Number of units136

On June 24, 2021, at approximately 1:25 a.m. EDT,[a] Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium with a penthouse and an underground garage in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, United States, experienced a sudden partial collapse. Twenty-two people have been confirmed dead, and 11 injured.[7][8][9][10][1][11][12] 126 people remain missing as rescue operations continue.[12][13][14][15][16] One person was rescued from the rubble,[17] and about 35 people were rescued from the uncollapsed portion of the building.[18]

Long-term degradation of reinforced concrete support structures in the underground garage due to water penetration and corrosion of the reinforcing steel is being considered as a potential factor in, or cause of, the collapse. The issues had been reported in 2018 and noted as "much worse" in April 2021. A $15 million program of remedial works had been approved at the time of the collapse.

Background

The residential condominium building, Champlain Towers South, is located at 8777 Collins Avenue (Florida State Road A1A) in the Surfside community just north of Miami Beach, Florida. It is just north of North Beach Oceanside Park, which is located in the North Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach.[19] It was built in 1981 by a group of developers, Champlain Towers South Associates,[20] led by the Canadian property developer Nathan Reiber.[21][22]

Champlain Towers South is part of a three-building complex along with Champlain Towers North (built at the same time), and Champlain Towers East (built between the North and South buildings in 1994).[23] All three are L-shaped structures with 12 stories, but as of 2021, the South building contained the most units at 136[24] including a rooftop penthouse, varying in size from 1,200 to 4,500 sq ft (110 to 420 m2) and from one to four bedrooms.[25] The penthouse was a controversial part of Champlain Towers South's design, as Surfside's height limit at the time had to be lawfully exceeded by its construction.[26]

William M. Friedman & Associates Architects, Inc., was the architect for the project's 1979 contract drawings.[27][28] Breiterman Jurado & Associates, consulting engineers, were responsible for engineering aspects and the 1979 contract drawings, with Brieterman and associates covering structural items and Jurado and associates covering electrical and mechanical.[27][28] Nattel Construction, Inc., of Miami Beach was the general contractor for the construction of all three buildings.[6]

The project was the first new construction in Surfside following a moratorium on new development imposed by Miami-Dade County due to water and sewer infrastructure problems in Surfside during the 1970s. In 1979, developers paid the city US$200,000 (equivalent to $713,000 in 2020) to fund the replacement of the sewer system and secure approval for the construction of the condos.[20]

Collapse

Surveillance video on YouTube
Video shows South Florida building collapse, by Fox 13 Tampa Bay

The Champlain Towers South building suddenly suffered a partial pancake collapse at about 1:25 a.m. EDT[a] on June 24, 2021,[1][29][13] lasting less than 12 seconds.[30] Surveillance video footage indicates that a large north-central section of the building abruptly collapsed first. This isolated and destabilized part of the northeast corner of the building, which also collapsed approximately nine seconds later.[31][32] Of the 136 units in the building, at least half were destroyed.[8][33]

Casualties

View of Champlain Towers South prior to the collapse, 2015
Miami-Dade firefighters search for survivors, June 24
The remaining part of the structure, June 24

As of July 2, 2021, 22 people are known to have died during or as a direct result of the collapse, and 11 more have been injured.[34][35][11][12] Of the 22 fatalities, 17 have been publicly identified, including two Venezuelan nationals, three Cubans and a Costa Rican.[36][37][38] Up to 126 people remain unaccounted for.[34][13][14][39][16]

At least 29 people from South America who resided in or were believed to be in the building at the time of the collapse are missing.[35] Paraguay's Ministry of Foreign Relations stated that the First Lady Silvana López Moreira's sister, along with her husband and their three children, are missing.[40][41] Another Paraguayan citizen is also missing.[42] The other missing people were identified as nine citizens from Argentina, four from Venezuela, six from Colombia,[43] and three from Uruguay.[44]

On June 25, Israel's consul general in Miami said that he believed 20 Israeli citizens are missing.[45] On June 27, Global Affairs Canada announced that, based on preliminary reports, four Canadians from three different families were believed missing.[46]

An Italian man and his Brazilian son are reportedly missing.[47]

One woman with dual American and British citizenship is missing, as confirmed by her family and the British consulate.[48]

Casualties by nationality or national origin
Country Missing Deaths Injured Ref.
 United States (or unknown) 67 16 11 [b]
 Israel 20 [45]
 Argentina 9 [43]
 Venezuela 4 2 [43][36]
 Colombia 6 [43]
 Paraguay 6 [42]
 Cuba 1 3 [49]
 Canada 4 [46]
 Uruguay 3 [44]
 Costa Rica 1 [38]
 Brazil 1 [47]
 Chile 1 [50]
 Italy 1 [47]
 United Kingdom 1 [48][b]
Total 126 22 11

Rescue and relief operations

Rescuers with a search and rescue dog search for survivors, June 24

June 24

More than 80 rescue units responded to the collapse, according to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.[51] Surfside mayor Charles Burkett said in a news conference that ten people were treated at the scene of the collapse and that two people were taken to the hospital, with one later dying.[52] At least 35 people were rescued from the building on June 24[18] and as many as 159 people were unaccounted for.[13][14] Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava signed a state of emergency declaration at 4:33 p.m. on June 24[53] and called on Florida governor Ron DeSantis to do so at the state level.[54] Governor DeSantis viewed the site on the same day,[55] and issued a state of emergency.[56] The White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency stated that they were in contact with local officials and providing assistance after the collapse.[57] President Joe Biden was briefed on the event, and spoke with Miami-Dade County mayor Levine Cava.[58][59]

Two FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force teams, Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 1 based in the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 based in the Miami Fire-Rescue Department, were activated.[60][61] An additional three teams, one in Ohio and two in Virginia, were alerted to be on standby to assist.[62] Members of Hatzalah of South Florida, a Jewish faith-based ambulance service which was authorized to transport patients as part of a law signed the previous week in Surfside,[63] were among the first to respond to the collapse, setting up an on-site triage station.[64][65]

Israel offered clothes, medication, food, water, and other aid to the victims of the collapse. At least 35 of the missing were Jewish, but it was not yet clear whether any were Israeli citizens, according to Israeli consul general Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, who came to the scene and conveyed an official offer from the Israeli government to send the Israel Defense Forces' Home Front Command search and rescue team to assist in the rescue efforts. The Command has assisted in many other disasters, such as the 2017 Puebla earthquake, 2010 Haitian earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan.[66] Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid offered condolences and support.[67]

June 25

Mayor Levine Cava said that people from Israel and Mexico have joined in the search and rescue effort. Workers from both countries rotate in and out as work teams sift through the rubble in two daily 12-hour shifts.[68]

June 26

In a news conference, Mayor Levine Cava explained that a fire deep within the rubble, and subsequent smoke, were impeding the ability of fire and rescue personnel to search for survivors. She indicated that the fire "spread laterally throughout the pile" making it difficult to isolate the source.[69] Officials said rescue workers were also working in the tower's underground parking garage, where there was heavy damage, under constantly changing conditions.[23] Levine Cava advised that "No further victims have been found, as you've heard. The numbers are the same as they were yesterday; 127 have been accounted for... One hundred and fifty-nine unaccounted for. Four confirmed dead."[70] Later that afternoon, the official toll was revised without elaboration to five dead and 156 missing.[16]

Surfside mayor Burkett advised residents of the Champlain Towers North building, located about 500 feet (150 m) north of the fallen structure, to evacuate with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance "pending a thorough structural investigation", noting that the North and South buildings were constructed by the same developer at about the same time, and likely using similar plans and materials.[71] However, Burkett did not immediately order the evacuation of the building or declare it unsafe.[72] By late afternoon, voluntary evacuations were occurring at both Champlain Tower North and Champlain Tower East.[73]

Florida officials announced that THOR, a 1,000 square foot (93 m2) mobile command center, was being deployed from Escambia County to help coordinate search and rescue and recovery teams and operations.[74] THOR, which includes cellular, satellite, and VOIP wireless systems and UHF and VHF radio systems, as well as built-in generators, will be deployed for at least 10 days.[75]

June 27

FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell announced that the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has significant experience with complex construction, demolition, stabilization, and forensic engineering projects, is providing assistance with rescue and recovery efforts at the site.[76] A search-and-rescue team from the Israeli Defense Forces' Home Front Command arrived in the morning, along with a six-person psycho-trauma unit from the Israel-based United Hatzalah and members of ZAKA, a volunteer team that specializes in rescues as well as gathering body parts for Jewish burial.[64][77][78] In the evening, Mayor Levine Cava advised that nine people had been confirmed dead and 152 were missing. Names of an additional four victims were released later that night, leaving only one of those confirmed dead not publicly identified. Two of the victims named were Venezuelan nationals.[79]

June 28

An additional fatality had been confirmed, bringing the number of dead to 10, with 151 people still missing. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Ray Jadallah stressed that, despite the operation entering its fifth day, the effort was still focused on the search for and potential rescue of survivors rather than shifting to recovery.[80] In the afternoon, Levine Cava announced that an eleventh body had been found, reducing the number of missing to 150.[81] The names of three additional victims were released later in the evening, making all of the 11 known fatalities then publicly identified.[82] An international nonprofit group of volunteers trained in Israel called Cadena International (cadena being a Spanish word meaning "chain") is assisting the rescue mission.[83]

June 29

Mayor Levine Cava reported that no more survivors or victims had yet been found, but that 210 search and rescue workers were on site, each working 12-hour shifts. Workers are being medically evaluated regularly to ensure their fitness to work at the site. A massive fire deep in the rubble pile, which had hampered search and rescue efforts since the collapse, was finally extinguished.[84] Small, radio-controlled robots equipped with thermal sensors and 360-degree cameras were being deployed to assist in search and recovery efforts.[85] President Biden was expected to visit the site on July 1, having not done so earlier to avoid disrupting rescue operations.[86]

In the evening, Mayor Levine Cava advised that 12 people had been confirmed dead and 149 were missing. Levine Cava said that authorities will audit the names of the missing to ensure none are duplicates, particularly because of provided Hebrew names. Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said 3,000,000 pounds (1,400,000 kilograms) of concrete had been removed from the site of the collapse. He said rescue workers will not reenter the west section of the building facing Collins Avenue, which is still standing, because it is unstable, making it too dangerous to do so. Rescuers currently cannot enter a large area under the rubble on the eastern side of the site because of the same risk.[87]

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and Miami-Dade Fire Chief Cominsky have requested that FEMA deploy an additional Urban Search and Rescue Task Force team, anticipating that emergency response to the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season may otherwise have an adverse impact on the number of rescue and recovery personnel available for deployment at Surfside.[88]

June 30

An additional six bodies were found on Wednesday, including the wife and two children of a man whose body was found on June 26. This brought the death toll to 18 and reduced the number of missing to 145.[89] In the afternoon, the rescuers discovered void spaces, including one described as "a big tunnel", in the rubble.[90][91]

July 1

Search and rescue efforts were halted at the site at approximately 2:00 a.m. due to concerns that the western portion of the structure, which had not yet collapsed, was increasingly likely to do so, creating unsafe conditions for workers.[92] President Biden visited the site after meeting with Governor DeSantis, Mayor Levine Cava, other elected leaders, and uniformed first responders in a conference room at the nearby St. Regis Bal Harbour resort. Biden suggested that the federal government could possibly cover the full cost of the first 30 days of rescue and recovery efforts.[93] Concern also mounted that Tropical Storm Elsa could make landfall in south Florida, further destabilizing the standing portion of the structure and the debris field and interfering with rescue operations.[94] The search resumed in the early evening after a 15-hour delay,[92] and authorities announced the identity of an additional fatality, leaving one victim publicly unidentified.[93]

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which sent scientists and engineers to the site on June 25 under the authority of the National Construction Safety Team Act,[95] announced that it would launch a full investigation into the collapse, with an eye to determining best practices to prevent similar disasters in the future.[93] Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the U.S. Representative from Florida's 23rd Congressional district which includes Surfside, tweeted, "There are millions of high-rise condo units like those in Champlain Towers all across Florida... The NIST investigation is a major announcement and will be key to learning not only the cause of the tragedy in Surfside, but the potential danger posed to other structures across FL."[96]

July 2

The bodies of two more victims were found in the wreckage, according to comments at a morning news conference by Mayor Levine Cava, bringing the known death toll to 20.[11] The mayor also revised the number of missing downward to 128, explaining that officials "originally received a report [regarding] a potentially missing person... That report was only marked as one person, but when the detectives were able to reach and verify... we discovered that there are in fact, several family members who could have been [ac]counted for... and now we can mark them as safe."[11]

Due to the large influx of search and rescue personnel, officials, and investigators from around the country and outside the US, and a resulting shortage of hotel rooms, accommodations are being provided to some workers on a cruise ship, Royal Caribbean Group's Explorer of the Seas, docked at PortMiami.[97]

At an evening news conference, Mayor Levine Cava announced the recovery of two additional bodies, bringing the death toll to 22.[12] The mayor has ordered the remaining structure to be demolished as soon as it is feasible. It is unknown if residents who have been displaced from this section of the building will have any way to recover property of value. Ongoing structural engineering assessments have indicated that the still-standing portion of the structure is dangerously unstable, presenting a further hazard to residue and recovery teams working on site. However, Levine Cava noted that the demolition will "take, most likely, weeks".[98]

A first cousin of Chilean Air Force general Alberto Bachelet and second cousin to the general's daughter Michelle Bachelet, who served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and 2014 to 2018, and his Filipino American wife, a retired senior budget officer in the International Monetary Fund, were among three previously recovered victims who were formally identified by authorities on Friday night.[99][100][50][101]

Other assistance

The National Basketball Association's Miami Heat staff handed out water and snacks to state emergency workers at the site of the collapse. World Central Kitchen and Direct Relief, both of whom are recipients of funds from the Heat's charitable arm, were also helping.[102] American Red Cross volunteers assisted people displaced by the collapse.[103]

The Miami Marlins, along with the Miami Marlins Foundation, announced on June 28 that the team has created the Marlins Surfside Relief Fund. Matching $50,000 donations were made by Marlins majority owner and chairman Bruce Sherman and Anthony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Marlins naming-rights partner LoanDepot. The Marlins organization and Marlins ownership group will collectively contribute an additional $25,000, as will LoanDepot, which will match the next $50,000 contribution.[104]

Aftermath

On June 24, 2021, a lawsuit was filed by a resident of the building against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, seeking $5 million in damages "due to defendant's acts and omissions and their failure to properly protect the lives and property of plaintiff and class members".[105]

On June 26, Mayor Levine Cava ordered an immediate audit in Miami-Dade County of all high-rise buildings older than 40 years and taller than five stories, as well as all those built by the developer of the Champlain Towers condominium complex, to be completed within the next 30 days.[73] The editorial board of the Miami Herald called for a grand jury investigation of the collapse. Miami-Dade County state attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told the board, "Historically, this is the sort of thing grand jurors look at."[106]

The town of Surfside announced on June 27 that it had contracted with Allyn Kilsheimer, founder and chief executive of KCE Structural Engineers, to study the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South, assess the condition of adjacent and similar buildings, and provide geotechnical and original-design evaluations. The firm was involved in the forensic analysis of the aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon during 9/11 and the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse in 2018.[107] Surfside mayor Charles Burkett said that the town government would locate every document, including all correspondence sent or received, related to the Champlain Towers South building and post it on its web site in the interest of public transparency.[108]

In what it termed a show of respect for victims of the collapse and their families, the City of Miami Beach canceled its annual Fire on the Fourth festival, which was scheduled to be held blocks away at 72nd Street and Collins Avenue at the North Beach Bandshell. Other Independence Day events were canceled in the metro Miami area, both to show respect to those affected by the tragedy and to avoid worsening an already bad traffic situation due to road closures and detours associated with rescue efforts in Surfside.[109]

On July 2, the Champlain Towers South condominium board issued a statement to the press following a judge's decision[110] directing a receiver to release emergency assistance funds to residents of the building. The full statement read, "The surviving members of the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association board have concluded that, in the best interest of all concerned parties, an independent Receiver should be appointed to oversee the legal and claims process. The collapse of Champlain Towers South is an unspeakable tragedy that has devastated our community, our neighbors, and our friends. We are grieving and our hearts ache for those who have been lost and for their families. They have our deepest condolences. Our profound gratitude goes out to the emergency rescue personnel – professionals and volunteers alike – who have been working around the clock. We know that answers will take time as part of a comprehensive investigation and we will continue to work with city, state, local, and federal officials in their rescue efforts, and to understand the causes of this tragedy."[111]

Possible causes

According to Surfside town commissioner Eliana Salzhauer, at the time of the disaster, the building was undergoing inspection for its 40-year recertification, which typically takes one year to complete.[112] According to Surfside mayor Charles Burkett, roof repairs were being performed on the building.[113]

According to Florida International University research analyzing publicly available European Remote-Sensing Satellite data, the building had been sinking during the 1990s at a significant rate of about two millimeters (0.079 in) per year. While 97 percent of Miami Beach had been stable, 1,555 of 18,949 points in Miami Beach had been sinking, at a rate of less than one millimeter (0.039 in) per year.[114] A building collapse due to sinking is likely only if one part of a building is sinking at a faster rate than another, creating tensions that weaken the structure. Overbuilt areas were sinking at a significantly faster rate, such as on the artificial islands in Biscayne Bay – up to 3.8 millimeters (0.15 in) per year.[115][116][117][118]

In 2018, an inspection performed by the engineering firm Morabito Consultants showed a "major error" in the construction of the pool deck, whereby the waterproofing layer was not sloped. Water that collected on the waterproofing remained until it could evaporate. Over the years, the concrete slabs below the pool deck had been severely damaged by this water. The report noted the waterproofing below the pool deck was beyond its useful life and needed to be completely removed and replaced. The firm wrote that "failure to replace waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially", and that the repair would be "extremely expensive". The ceiling slabs of the parking garage, which sat below the pool deck, showed several sizable hairline cracks and cases of exposed rebar from spalling.[27] Though roof repairs pursuant to the consultant's report were underway at the time of the collapse, the recommended concrete restoration repairs had not begun.[119]

As well as water from the defectively constructed pool deck,a past maintenance manager of the property reported a possible excessive ingress of salt water, which can cause more aggressive spalling.[120] Over time, water penetration from one or both of these sources had led to severe cracking and breaking away (spalling) of reinforced concrete and severe corrosion of the reinforcing steel rebar within it. Reinforcing steel is usually protected from rusting by the concrete, but if exposed by cracking, it can corrode (rust). Steel expands when it rusts, which causes further cracking and accelerates the deterioration of the concrete, as well as weakening its reinforcement. Ultimately if unchecked, the structure is weakened to a point that it fails and gives way.

On June 28, 2021, images were published by the Miami Herald from an anonymous pool contractor, who claimed that they showed portions of the pool equipment room, located under the pool on the south side of the underground garage, as they appeared just 36 hours before the collapse. According to the contractor, the images showed standing water, cracking concrete, and severely corroded rebar under the pool.[121] On June 30, video (taken at 1:18 a.m. according to the phone on which it was recorded) was released to the press by ABC affiliate WLS-TV in Chicago. The video showed water pouring into the parking garage from above near its entrance, and apparent concrete rubble lying on the floor. The video timestamp suggested it was taken seven minutes before the north-central portion of the building collapsed.[122][123]

On April 9, 2021, a letter to residents had outlined a $15-million remedial-works program, noting that concrete deterioration was accelerating and had become "much worse" since the 2018 report.[124]

On June 27, the Miami Herald reported on the consensus of six engineering experts it interviewed. Based on publicly available evidence, the experts believed that a structural column or concrete slab beneath the pool deck likely gave way, causing the deck to collapse into the garage below. This formed a crater beneath the bulky midsection of the tower, which then caved in on itself. This is a type of progressive collapse, in which one structural part gives way, destabilizing and removing support from other parts, which in turn collapse and rapidly remove structural support. Among the evidence supporting this conclusion was the report that moments before the building collapsed, a resident of a fourth-floor unit called her husband to tell him that a crater had appeared in the pool deck. The resident was among those missing in the collapse.[125]

On June 28, The New York Times reported that the secretary of the resident-led association that managed Champlain Towers South contacted the town building department in early 2019[126] due to resident concerns that their building's structural integrity was affected by the construction next door at the Eighty Seven Park condo development. The project broke ground in early 2016[127] and was completed in late 2019.[128] No known engineering records suggest a connection between Eighty Seven Park construction and any damage at Champlain Towers.[126]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c The Miami Herald reported in its timeline of the collapse[1] that the first call to emergency services was received at 1:23 am. EDT. The Washington Post reported that a resident called 911 at 1:19 am, after part of the pool deck and a surface-level parking deck had collapsed, that the first fire engine was dispatched to the building at about 1:20 am, and that the building collapsed between 1:24 and 1:25 am.[2] However, the vast majority of sources, including Herald reporters, continue to describe the event as occurring "around 1:30 am. EDT".
  2. ^ a b 1 dual British-American citizen missing, tabulated in Casualties by nationality table under "United Kingdom"

References

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  2. ^ Swaine, Jon; Shammas, Brittany; Lee, Joyce Sohyun; Mirzar, Atthar; Brown, Emma; Brittain, Amy (June 29, 2021). "Videos, images and interviews deepen questions about role of pool deck in condo collapse". Seattle Times. Archived from the original on July 1, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
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