Saturday, May 28

11 dead and 150 missing due to the collapse of a building in Miami

Rescuers working against the clock at the site of the partial collapse of a 12-story building in Surfside (Miami-Dade, Florida) announced on Monday the discovery of the bodies of two new victims, with which there are already 11 deceased, and they assure that “the search will continue”.

The number of disappeared now stands at 150, while those found alive are 136, said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who promises to go “to the bottom” in the investigation to determine the causes of this tragedy. that has touched individuals and families from various countries.

Levine Cava, Florida Governor Ron Desantis; the lieutenant governor, Jeanette Núñez; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents the Surfside district, and leaders of the rescue teams appeared before the press after communicating the news to the families of the victims.

Ray Jadallah, deputy chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Department, indicated that the rescuers are going to change their positions in the mountain of rubble so that the heavy machinery lifts a large plate of reinforced concrete in an area where several bodies have been found in these days .

For reasons not yet determined, the northeast wing of the Champlain Towers building, inaugurated in 1981 and with a total of 136 apartments, collapsed in seconds at 1.30 am (6.30 GMT) on Thursday, June 24, when its inhabitants they slept.

55 apartments were turned into a pile of rubble, where more than 240 people worked on Monday in different jobs but with one priority: finding survivors, according to Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.

Burkett said that although five days have passed since the collapse, it is still possible to find people alive, as has been shown in earthquakes and other similar catastrophes.

An international tragedy

Most of the fatalities identified so far were of Hispanic origin, like many of the rescuers, including teams from other areas of the US and also from countries such as Mexico and Israel.

Among the deceased are Antonio and Gladys Lozano, a married couple of 83 and 79 years of Cuban origin, who, according to their relatives, feared being separated by death and would have been married for 59 years in July. Venezuelans Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and Cristina Beatriz Elvira, 74, had also been married for many years.

Another identified victim is Manuel LaFont, a 54-year-old separated man from Houston, Texas, who liked to play basketball with his son in a nearby park. Ana Ortiz, 46, and Luis Bermúdez, 26, were mother and son and came from Puerto Rico.

The first victim identified was 54-year-old American Stacie Dawn Fang, whose 15-year-old son, Jonah Handler, who was pulled from the remains of the building alive on the day of the collapse, is recovering from his injuries in hospital.

The priority continues to be focused on finding survivors or remains of victims of the collapse, but indications of the possible causes of what happened are also being sought. Surfside Mayor’s Office has tasked a team of engineers, led by veteran Allyn Kilshemer, with the task of determining how the entire northeast wing of the 12-story, 40-year-old building was able to collapse from top to bottom in a matter of seconds.

Kilsheimer of KCE Structural Engineers said after visiting the site, in a statement reported to the press, that there is no visible evidence of a major structural failure.

More documents on the problems of the building

In addition, the Surfside mayor’s office published this Monday a new batch of documents that are in its records about the damaged building, which show, like others published before, the structural and other problems it had.

Among them are some from 2019 in which the Champlain Towers homeowners association expressed their concern to the municipality about the effects that the construction of a large building nearby could have on the structure.

A year earlier, a report from an engineering firm had indicated that there was “significant” structural damage to the building, largely due to a waterproofing sheet in the pool area having been misplaced, preventing it from the water would drain properly and recommended making repairs.

The newspaper Miami Herald published this Monday information in which it is stated that a month after that reportThe official then in charge of these issues at the Mayor’s Office, whom he identifies as Ross Prieto, told residents of Champlain Towers that the building was “in a very good condition.” The Miami Herald He contacted Prieto and said that he did not remember what he said in a meeting with the condominium board, as recorded in a minute to which the newspaper had access.

The causes of the collapse are already being investigated by the competent authorities, but it is taken for granted that it will be a long and complex investigation and the answers will not arrive as soon as the survivors and the families of the victims would like.

More demands on the horizon

The first lawsuit against the Champlain Towers Association was filed on the same day as the collapse by a law firm for “failing to secure and safeguard lives and property.”

The owner of an apartment in Champlain Towers, Manuel Drezner, and “others in the same situation” who can join the lawsuit once filed, claim an initial figure of five million dollars in damages.

This Monday, two law firms, Morgan & Morgan and Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, specializing in lawsuits for falling buildings, reported that they are investigating and exploring possible legal actions regarding the collapse of the building.

“We are actively investigating what caused the building to collapse, if there were warning signs beforehand that were missed or ignored, and if the system of building codes and regulations, which is intended to prevent these types of disasters from occurring, failed.” said lawyer René Rocha.