A 2018 engineering assessment found “major structural damage” caused by a lack of proper drainage beneath the Champlain Towers pool deck, three years before the south tower collapsed in a cloud of dust this week.
The report also found damage to balconies, cracks on parking garage columns, exposed steel support beams on the garage deck, and “significant cracking” on the building’s stucco facade.
More than 150 people remain missing in the disaster, and at least five people are confirmed dead. Teams have worked around the clock since the collapse early Thursday morning clearing debris and searching for signs of survivors, but a “very deep” fire within the crumbled structure has slowed the already painstaking work, the Associated Press reported.
Regarding the pool deck, the report said the problem was a “major error” that began with the building’s original development 40 years ago: The deck and outdoor planters were set up on a flat surface without adequate waterproofing that left standing water for long periods of time. The standing water, in turn, caused significant damage to the structural concrete below the deck. And beneath that, the report said, the parking garage itself showed “signs of distress/fatigue.”
“Several sizable [cracks in the concrete] were noted in both the topside of the entrance drive ramp and underside of the pool/entrance drive/planter slabs, which included instances with exposed, deteriorating rebar,” the report said.
The report recommended an immediate repair and admitted that repair would “take time, be disruptive and create a major disturbance to the occupants of this condominium structure,” as well as be “extremely expensive.”
It’s not clear if that repair was ever done. But another repair the report recommended — adding roof anchors where window washers attach their equipment — was under way at the time of the collapse. Jim McGuinness, Surfside’s building official, told a Town of Surfside emergency meeting on Friday that he had been on the roof of the south tower hours before the collapse checking the work, the Palm Beach Post reported.
“There was no inordinate amount of equipment or materials or anything on that roof that caught my building official’s eye that would make it alarming as to this place collapsing,” he said.
One of the biggest questions on the table comes from residents of the condos’ north tower, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. He said he wasn’t going to order an evacuation, but added that if he lived there, “I’d be gone.”
Burkett said FEMA had agreed to pay for lodging for residents of the north tower, which was constructed at the same time and by the same designer as the tower that collapsed, and he was working out a plan to temporarily relocate north tower residents.
“I know that the identical building collapsed for an inexplicable reason,” Burkett said. “Buildings in the United States do not just fall down. … Something very, very wrong was going on at that building, and we need to find out.”
Officials were also looking at a third building — Champlain Towers East — although that building was constructed in a different style and at a different time.
Meanwhile, a south Florida attorney filed the first lawsuit against the condo association on Thursday, on behalf of Manuel Drezner, who owned a condo in the south tower, and “others similarly situated,” 6 South Florida reported. The suit, filed by the Brad Sohn Law Firm, seeks $5 million in damages “due to Defendant’s acts and omissions and their failure to properly protect the lives and property of Plaintiff and Class members.”
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[Featured image: Rescue workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condominium on Saturday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)]