Closer look at Champlain Towers South condos

Investigators were working Thursday to determine what caused a 40-year-old South Florida beachside condo building to collapse, killing at least one person and injuring 10 others.

Rescuers continued to search for survivors after part of the Champlain Towers South, a 12-story condominium, “pancaked” in the town of Surfside, Florida, shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday, Mayor Charles Burkett said.

About half of the building’s more than 130 units were affected, said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and officials fear many more may be dead and trapped under the rubble.

Why the building collapsed is not immediately known. Burkett said the roof was being worked on recently, but he did not think that caused the building to fall.

The collapse left piles of debris around the building and coated cars two blocks away with dust.

Here’s what we know about the building:

The Champlain Towers South was built in 1981

The L-shaped Champlain Towers South is located in the southeast corner of Surfside, and Burkett said the building was not old relative to some other art deco buildings in South Beach built in the 1920s.

“There’s no reason for this building to go down like that unless someone literally pulls out the supports from underneath or they get washed out or there’s a sinkhole,” Burkett said. “… because it just went down.”

Photos: Heartbreaking images capture the Surfside building collapse and rescue efforts

The town of Surfside requires commercial and multi-family buildings to be recertified every 40 years, which involves electrical and structural inspections for a report to be filed with the town. That process was underway for the building but had not yet been completed, town officials said Thursday.

“Bottom line is that’s not an old building, and 40-year inspection or not, that kind of thing should not be happening,” Burkett said.

Researchers found condo had been sinking into Earth at alarming rate

A researcher at Florida International University said the building was constructed on reclaimed wetlands and was determined to be unstable a year ago.

The building was sinking at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s, and the sinking could have slowed or accelerated in the time since, according to a 2020 study conducted by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University.

“I looked at this morning and said ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that,” he said of the Champlain Towers South.

The level of subsidence observed in the 1990s can results in impacts to buildings and their structures, such as cracked walls or shifting foundations, Wdowinski said.

Investigation: Collapsed Miami condo had been sinking into Earth as early as the 1990s

Roof work was being done recently

Burkett said roofing work was ongoing at the building. A crane had been at the building, and he said the work would have likely required an inspection and permit.

Burkett did not know how heavy the equipment being used to work on the roof was, but he did not think the weight of it would have caused the collapse. “It’s hard to imagine that that could have been the impetus for such a catastrophic collapse,” he added.

Rescue operations were ongoing as of Thursday evening.

The building had more than 130 units

Online records show more than 130 units in the building. Some were owned by individuals and other by LLCs.

‘I have no hope’: Loved ones await news, survivors flee after condo building partially collapses near Miami

A few two-bedroom units in the development are listed for sale with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000, an Internet search shows.

The building’s website promotes “incredible oceanfront views or spectacular views of inter-coastal waterway with the City in the Background.”

It adds that year-round ocean breezes help keep the temperatures moderate in the summer and winter and that the condos are “located near some of the best shopping Miami has to offer as well as the famous Miami Nightlife.”

SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press, Google Earth

Gina Barton, Kyle Bagenstose, Pat Beall, Aleszu Bajak, Elizabeth Weise, Becky Kellogg, Andy Scott, Rachel Aretakis, and Shawn Sullivan contributed to this report.

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