Professor: Condo Building Was Sinking Since 1990s

Nearly 100 people unaccounted for after collapse in Florida
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2021 11:29 AM CDT
Updated Jun 24, 2021 2:39 PM CDT
51 Unaccounted for After Florida Condo Collapse
The scene in Surfside, Florida.   (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

It may take days for the numbers to crystallize after part of a condo building collapsed overnight near Miami, but authorities on Thursday were focusing on a harrowing number: 99 people are unaccounted for, reports the Miami Herald and Washington Post. Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman says that doesn't necessarily mean they are missing or trapped in the rubble. “They are unaccounted for because they have not been heard from or have not called family or friends to say they are OK,” she said. As of Thursday afternoon, the confirmed death toll stood at one.

  • The 12-story building is the Champlain Towers South Condo, located in Surfside and built in 1981, reports the Miami Herald. A portion of the ocean-facing building crumbled about 1:30am. "We're bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing," says Gov. Ron DeSantis. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue tweeted that 55 units were impacted.
  • The building was constructed on reclaimed wetlands, and USA Today reports that scientists discovered in 2020 that it has been sinking since the 1990s. Shimon Wdowinski of Florida International University found that it was sinking roughly 2 millimeters a year, though it remains too early to tell if this could be a factor in the collapse. “It was a byproduct of analyzing the data," says Wdownski. "We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement." Cautions former Surfside Mayor Daniel Deitch: “This is an extraordinarily unusual event and it is dangerous and counterproductive to speculate on its cause."

  • CNN has video of the moment of the collapse here.
  • The AP talks to resident Barry Cohen, who escaped with his wife and says he noticed cracks in pavers on the pool deck years ago and raised concerns that nearby construction was causing them.
  • About three dozen people were rescued in the initial response, but those rescues were slowing down. “They brought dogs who can sniff for survivors in the rubble,” says Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer. “They aren’t turning up very much. No one is celebrating anyone being pulled out.”
  • NBC News interviews a passer-by who helped in the rescue of a young boy from the rubble. "I just told him, 'We're here. We're not going to leave you,'" recalls Nicholas Balboa. "The police officer that came told us to move back and I basically told him I'm not leaving. You'll have to arrest me first." Balboa added that the boy said he was with his mother, but Balboa never heard or saw her during the approximately 60-minute rescue.
  • CNN reports relatives of the first lady of Paraguay, Silvana López Moreira, are among the unaccounted for. López Moreira's sister lives on the 10th floor with her husband and three children.
(More Florida stories.)

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