Rebecca Blackwell / AP
The search for victims in one of the deadliest building collapses in US history ended after four weeks. Fire brigade teams scoured the debris left at the disaster site without finding evidence of additional casualties.
Retail Miami-Dade Police Station. Lee Cowart confirms that firefighters’ search teams have left the site.
Authorities had vowed to continue searching for people among approximately 11 tons of rubble that remained after the sudden destruction of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla. On June 24.
A total of 97 people have been confirmed dead, a significant drop from initial estimates of possible victims, which suggested 159 people were killed. That figure plummeted when authorities identified remains or discovered people who turned out not to be in the building when it fell.
One person is reported missing.
The only living victims were recovered from the site shortly after the tower collapsed.
Identifying remains has become more difficult over time
Of those whose bodies have since been exhumed, all but one have been identified, officials said. However, the process has become increasingly difficult due to the heat wave and torrential rains that have hit the region in recent weeks.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said last week that the remains being recovered could no longer be visually identified.
“We rely heavily on the work of the medical examiner’s office,” Levine Cava said during a press briefing. “It is a scientific process to identify human remains. As we have said, this work becomes more and more difficult over time.”
There were also some setbacks in the 24-hour search due to the dangerous and unstable conditions at the site of the collapse.
Rebecca Blackwell / AP
Investigating the cause of the condo’s collapse could take a long time
At least 22 million pounds of debris and concrete have been removed from the site and officials warn the investigation is complex. Be careful, this will be a slow and deliberate process that will take a long time to complete. The site was under the control of the Miami-Dade Police Department, classified as a crime scene.
Engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency that investigates collapses of buildings such as the World Trade Center, were deployed to Surfside on July 15. They will “gather evidence and determine how and why Champlain’s south tower collapsed”. Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a declaration.
“To date, engineers and lawyers have repeatedly requested access to this site because of their understandable desire to advance their civil lawsuits. However, we cannot forget that the scene and all related documents are still under active investigation. , preservation and review, and as usual law enforcement is in charge, ”Rundle added.
Earlier reports showed that local authorities had warned residents of “major structural damage” and a “major error” in the construction of the building as early as October 2018, three years before the mandatory building inspection at 40.
At the time, a local engineer discovered that the structural slab of the 12-story building was deteriorating; it was flat instead of sloping. This caused water to accumulate on the surface, weakening the structure. Over the decades, according to the report, the concrete began to crumble and the support columns rusted.
But despite the disturbing revelations, residents of the Tour Champlain condominium have debated for years how to tackle the issues, as well as the $ 9 million price tag to fix the building’s problems.
They were reminded of the dire findings in a “condition of the building” letter as recently as April. In it, the condo board explained the urgent need for repairs worth $ 15 million, saying that discussions about the construction had gone on for months and years.
“The observable damage like in the garage has worsened considerably since the initial inspection,” wrote the chairman of the board. “When you can visually see the chipping (cracking) of the concrete, it means that the rebar that holds it together is rusting and deteriorating below the surface.”
She also sounded the alarm on the rapid deterioration of the roof, saying “the situation had worsened” since the filing of the initial report.
Documents provided to NPR show that the board of directors approved the search for a $ 15 million line of credit on April 13, 2021. However, structural repairs had not yet started when the condo collapsed. 2 months later.