A condominium building that collapsed near Miami, Florida, last week may have had longstanding structural issues leading to a disaster that “started from the bottom” of the building according to officials who still remain hopeful despite the incident’s climbing death count.
Attention has also turned toward the building’s developer amid reports that the developer was once accused of “paying off officials,” according to Fox News.
“Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says a tenth body has been found this morning in the search for survivors of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse,” Fox News reported Monday, noting that 151 people are still believed missing in the disaster.
Authorities are still hopeful that survivors may be found in pockets of air left in the debris as it piled up from the collapse, which happened in the early morning hours of last Thursday. “Miami Dade Fire and Rescue Chief Andy Alvarez said on Monday the rescue mission was speeding up thanks to cranes they have just brought in that are able to lift larger slabs of concrete from the pile,” the Daily Mail noted in its own Monday report.
Alvarez added that they continue to search for live victims and that the operation has not shifted to a “search and recover” situation.
As officials clear the rubble and speak to both survivors and those connected to the missing, they are beginning to piece precisely how a quarter of the Champlain Towers “pancaked” in on itself with nearly no warning.
“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” a consulting engineer who is not affiliated with the search and rescue operation told the New York Times. “It’s not like there’s a failure high and it pancaked down.”
Engineers, though, told the New York Times, that such a collapse could not have occurred without a triggering failure.
“Called ‘progressive collapse,’ the gradual spread of failures could have occurred for a variety of reasons, including design flaws or the less robust construction allowed under the building codes of four decades ago, when the complex was built,” the outlet noted. “But that progression could not have occurred without some critical first failure, and close inspections of a grainy surveillance video that emerged in the initial hours after the disaster have given the first hints of where that might have been.”
In a separate report, Fox News noted that a female resident of the towers, who is now missing, called her husband shortly before the collapse and told him that it appeared the building’s pool had disappeared into a sinkhole.
“A woman missing in the deadly Florida condo building collapse called her husband as the tragedy unfolded — and said she saw a sinkhole where the pool used to be before the line went dead,” Fox reported. “The model, actress, and Pilates instructor woke her husband in Washington, D.C., and frantically told him that their building was shaking before making the startling comments about a sinkhole.”
Eyes have also turned to the building’s developer, who now stands accused, by a rival builder, of approaching city officials with the intent to cut corners. The accusers, however, have yet to make concrete claims backed by evidence.
“Building rivals claimed that the partners behind Surfside Champlain Towers South were receiving preferential treatment when it came to getting through the permit system as the site was being built in 1981,” according to the Washington Post. “Surfside’s developers had contributed to the campaigns of at least two town-council members, then demanded that the donations be returned when the allegations surfaced.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is on-site in Miami Monday helping to coordinate both state and federal disaster response.