Rescue operations temporarily halted July 1 at the Surfside, Fla., condominium due to “structural concerns” about the stability of the section of the 12-story residential tower that remains standing, after its partial collapse on June 24, said Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County mayor at a press conference.
However, work resumed as of 4:45 p.m. on July 1. To date, 18 people were reported dead in the collapse and 145 people remained missing.
“We’re proceeding for likely demolition of the building,” the mayor said July 1. “This is the decision we need to make extremely carefully … as we consider the impact and how to best manage the demolition.”
Structural engineers “took time to study that things were safe,” Levine Cava said of the resumption of rescue efforts. “Our fire rescue team was working around the clock and we needed our engineers on site to evaluate the safety.” A team of engineers is using drones to help identify dangerous areas in the collapse zone, she added.
“They’re working in a very, very unsafe environment,” said Alan Cominsky, chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue at a press conference shared on social media. He said the shutdown was the result of a hanging column that threatened to destabilize the remaining structure.
Allyn Kilsheimer, founder, president and CEO of KCE Structural Engineers, who is investigating for the town of Surfside, told ENR prior to the resumption of rescue efforts that “they saw some movement in the debris and are evaluating.”
The pause in the rescue came the same day but was not related to President Joe Biden visiting the site and holding a briefing with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Levine Cava. Later in the day, Biden pledged federal funds to cover all state and county costs. “I am committed not only to recover but to restore safety across the board,” he said.
The partial collapse at the 40-year-old Champlain Towers South came as the condo was involved in a required 40-year recertification process, and the tragedy has touched off discussion among engineers and state officials about the need for wider and perhaps earlier inspection programs.
Allen Douglas, executive director of the Florida Engineering Society and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, told ENR that inspections are needed before 40 years, and the recertification program should be statewide.
Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the only two of Florida’s 67 counties with a recertification requirement. “We haven’t taken an official position, but … these buildings need to be inspected sooner,” Douglas says.
Florida state Sen. Jason Pizzo issued a statement recommending that inspections should take place after 20, not 40 years, particularly for buildings built in the late 1970s and early 1980s during a coastal condo-building boom. Pizzo also advocates that the recertification requirement should be adopted statewide.
Douglas said the type of construction at Champlain Towers—reinforced concrete with flat-plate floor slabs and lightly braced shear walls—is common in Florida. He estimates that there may be 700 such buildings over four stories in Miami-Dade County alone.
Levine Cava announced June 29 that she is assembling a team of building experts in engineering, construction and soil analysis to grow county-wide building safety.