Early in the morning of the 24th of June 2021, a series of condominiums at 8777 Collins Avenue, Surfside, Florida spectacularly collapsed. The ultimate cause is yet to be determined, but the collapse has left one person dead and around 100 others as yet to be found.
Search and rescue efforts are currently underway after parts of a 12-story residential tower were destroyed around 1:30 am.
“There’s no reason for this building to go down like that,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, “unless someone literally pulls out the supports from underneath, or they get washed out, or there’s a sinkhole or something like that because it just went down.”
"I mean it looks like a bomb went off, but we're pretty sure a bomb didn't go off," the Burkett told NBC’s “TODAY” show.
The 136-unit building was built in the early-1980s and was undergoing reroofing works prior to the collapse. It is currently unknown if these works had any impact on the building's structural integrity that could have led to the catastrophe.
These works were part of Florida's 40-year recertification process, as is required under the Miami-Dade County building code. This building code requires that non-conforming buildings undergo updates and improvement following legislation put into place after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The cause of the collapse is yet to be determined
What is known at the time of the writing, is that the building has shown signs of subsidence in the past. A study last year by Shimon Wdowinski (a professor at Florida International University's Institute of Environment) showed that the building showed signs of sinking between the early- and late-1990s at a rate of a few millimeters a year.
What is important to note is that experts have long urged developers to take heed when building on the shifting sands of barrier islands -- like in Miami Beach. However, once again, it is still unclear if the necessary engineering challenges of such an undertaking were not completed satisfactorily.
It is important to note that Wdowinski does not believe this subsidence is the cause for the recent collapse, but may well have contributed to the problem itself.
"If one part of the building moves with respect to the other, that could cause some tension and cracks," he explained to CNN.
Other condos in the area have a history of being shut down after they have failed similar inspections, said Peter Zalewski, principal of Condo Vultures.
“I’ve been here since 1993, and I’ve never seen something like this happen,” Zalewski told NBC. “You would think any problems that large would have been detectable. If recertification was being done, expect reports that say what problems currently exist in the building.”
Quite what the final cause of the collapse is determined to be is yet to be uncovered. But, it is very likely that similar buildings will now undergo fresh analyses and inspections in the aftermath of this tragedy.
“At the end of the day,” Zalewski added, “this is going to be a dramatic change for condos.”
This is a developing story and IE will persevere to keep you updated if, and when, the cause is determined.