At least 11 dead after partial building collapse near Miami

By Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 11:56 PM ET, Mon June 28, 2021
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7:00 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Death toll in building collapse rises to 11

The death toll in the Surfside, Florida, building collapse has risen to 11, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

The number of people accounted for now stands at 136, and 150 people are unaccounted for, she said.

Levine Cava said the numbers are "very fluid and they will change."

"We are continually auditing the list and getting more calls and information from family members. Please stand by for more information," the mayor said.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava gives update:

5:59 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Miami-Dade mayor vows to "get to the bottom" of what went wrong in building collapse

From CNN's Deanna Hackney 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava CNN

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava vowed Monday to "get to the bottom of what went wrong" in Thursday's partial building collapse. 

"So, we're focused, as I've said, on the search and rescue, and the structural engineers are making sure that our rescue workers are safe, that the building that remains stays intact and so on, but of course it's all evidence, and we are going to get to the bottom of this, what went wrong," the mayor told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"We're going to make sure that it doesn't ever, ever happen again. And we can understand truly what are the structural risks that were taken here, if any,” she said.

Tapper questioned Levine Cava on the impression that Florida is a state where real estate developers have more power than regulators.

"I know there's going to be changes in the law, there will be changes at the state, and at the county and the city levels, and we have already started to the initiation of some changes that we could take administratively, and I know our county commission is going to be taking action," she said. "We have the best building code possible based on Hurricane Andrew's, lessons learned. Sad but true, we're going to learn from this devastating experience as well."

 

5:28 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Surfside official says 2018 report on building "reads like a standard inspection report"

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

Tina Paul, vice mayor of Surfside, told CNN’s Jake Tapper Monday that she saw the 2018 structural field survey report on the Champlain Towers South condominium and it "reads like a standard inspection report." 

"You have to realize these buildings are old. It depends on the maintenance, it depends on when they were built, and it depends on the level of maintenance they've been doing," Paul told Tapper. "A building like that should not collapse in this sort of way, based on routine maintenance."

Paul, however, added that there were "severe issues" in the report but "the work was starting to get underway." She noted that she personally was not aware of the report until it was released to the media, and she has never received any complaints. 

"Personally, I respond to my emails I respond to phone calls, and the issues that were brought to my attention was the beach path being closed, and only recently we had an issue about the tar smell from the roof repair. So those are the only things that came to my attention. I wish something had come to my attention I certainly would have looked into it,” she said.

4:26 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

First individual lawsuit filed against condo association over Surfside building collapse

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

The first individual lawsuit, and second overall, has been filed against the Champlain Towers South condominium association by a resident who survived Thursday's partial collapse. 

Plaintiff Steve Rosenthal's attorney Bob McKee said that his client is looking for an undisclosed amount of monetary compensation, as well as a jury trial. 

Rosenthal was standing right next to Champlain Tower South when it fell, McKee told CNN, and not only lost his home and his personal property, but inhaled "demolition dust that did who knows what to the immune system." 

According to the filing, the condominium association was negligent in "all aspects of reasonable care pertaining to its duties," which in turn "led to the horrific cause of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South, causing injury and damage to the Plaintiff and the loss of all of his real and personal property."

McKee said that events like the partial collapse at Champlain Towers South must not be allowed to happen again. 

"It's not a solitary event. The degradation of these buildings happens all the time," McKee said. "Will the collapse happen again? Maybe not. Who knows what will finally be the straw that breaks the back?" 

CNN has reached out to legal representation for the Champlain Towers South condominium association and has not received a response at this time. 

4:52 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Search and rescue physician "still hopeful" for survivors after building collapse

From CNN’s Camille Furst

 Dr. Benjamin Abo
Dr. Benjamin Abo CNN

The medical director of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1, Dr. Benjamin Abo, said he is "still hopeful" that his team will find survivors.

"I pray and I work hard hoping that we're going to get some more people," Abo told CNN Newsroom Monday afternoon. "But like I said, I'm cautiously optimistic as time goes on. And this is as a trained rescuer, and also a member of the community."

Abo told CNN's Alisyn Camerota that it's difficult to determine the chances of survival, since there are "just so many variables. We're talking more than 50 things," including the weather, what the victims were doing during the collapse, and what caused it in the first place.

For Abo, the rescue process is personal: he knows three people who were in the collapse. He continues to hold out hope that they are alive.

Abo has also found personal belongings when sifting through the debris, including toys, wedding photos and stuffed animals.

His team has transported belongings that are safe to move to a nearby shrine set up for the victims.

"As we continue with things, hopefully we get more survivors, but maybe these are things that are going to help bring closure and help us celebrate the lives of people as opposed to mourning the deaths," Abo said.

Watch:

3:45 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Condo owners in Surfside building were facing assessments for $15 million worth of repairs

From CNN's Casey Tolan

Condo owners in Champlain Towers South were facing assessments for $15 million worth of repairs – with payments set to begin just days after the building’s deadly collapse.

The building’s condo association approved a $15 million assessment in April to complete repairs required under the county’s 40-year recertification process, according to documents obtained by CNN. The deadline to pay upfront or choose a monthly fee lasting 15 years was July 1, a document sent to the owners of the building’s 136 units said.

Owners would have to pay assessments ranging from $80,190 for one-bedroom units to $336,135 for the owner of the building’s four-bedroom penthouse. 

An itemized list of planned repairs included new pavers, planter landscape and waterproofing – addressing some of the issues noted in a 2018 engineer’s report that warned how leaking water was leading to “major structural damage” to the building’s concrete structural slab. The most costly project listed was “facade, balcony and railing repairs” for $3.4 million.  

The 2018 report, prepared for the condo association, had previously estimated that necessary repairs to the building would cost about $9.1 million.

The big assessment bill came as an unwelcome surprise to some condo owners. 

“We struggled with it and everything,” said Isabel Aguero, who owns an 11th-floor unit in the part of the building that remained standing. She said she thought most of the line items appeared to be more for aesthetic improvements instead of structural fixes to the building – such as $722,000 for “hallway and public area renovations.” 

Aguero and her husband decided to go with the monthly payment, and sent in the paperwork last week Wednesday so the association would start adding $593 to their homeowners fees, they said. Early the next morning, the building collapsed.  

The couple bought the condo two years ago with plans to retire there. But they said they hadn’t spent much time in it, as their renovations and furniture deliveries were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Their son, Albert, was in the tower vacationing with his wife and two children when it collapsed. They woke up to a horrific noise and shaking, and “when we opened the door, we realized just how much damage had occurred,” he said. “The apartment to the left looked like it had been sheared in half.”

He said that there had been work on the building’s roof since earlier this year “that would wake us up every morning with drilling.” But larger structural construction had not yet begun, according to a statement from the engineering firm that conducted the 2018 report.

Albert said he was distressed reading the warnings in the 2018 report – which he never saw until after the building fell. 

“I was pretty angry at that point, angry that innocent lives had to be lost,” he said. 

4:11 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Parents of missing 21-year-old say they hope for a miracle, though the chances are "slim" 

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

 Ilan Naibryf
Ilan Naibryf Courtesy Naibryf family

The parents of Ilan Naibryf, a 21-year-old college student who is missing in the rubble with his girlfriend Deborah Berezdivin, say they are holding out hope for a miracle while facing the dire reality of the situation on the ground. 

"I believe that the chances are very slim... because of the way that this collapsed... it was like a bomb," Naibryf's father, Carlos, told CNN Monday. "I understand that realistically it's very hard to have a miracle, it may happen."

"Four days have passed and they haven't made too much progress, not because they are not doing the right job, but because it's very hard," he added.

The missing student's mother, Ronit Felszer, also said she would not lose hope unless there was physical evidence to the contrary.

Ronit Felszer and Carlos Naibryf
Ronit Felszer and Carlos Naibryf CNN

"We want to believe in a miracle because we still don't have physical presence in part or in whole of our son, so we always have that window," she said. "Would I call it hope? Would I call it that I'd like a miracle?"

"We are realistic parents, we're grounded parents," she added. "We hope that we can have our son return to us and make the decisions accordingly."

Watch the full interview:

2:47 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Mexico rescue team joins search efforts following the Surfside building collapse

From CNN’s Karol Suarez in Mexico City.

Mexico's international rescue team, Topos Azteca, has arrived in Florida to join rescue efforts following the partial collapse of a Surfside residential building, the group confirmed to CNN. 

Héctor Méndez, aka "Topo Mayor," head of Topos Azteca, told CNN on Monday they have obtained permission from local authorities to join rescue efforts, adding, "we have to wait a couple of hours to get in."

"I've been on this since the earthquake in Mexico, and I've been all over the world; when you have already seen death, you have had the opportunity to rescue someone, when something serious like this happens, that instinct inside you awakes for the preservation of the human race," Méndez said.  

"Then you know that your mission in life is to come to help your brothers who are crying out for help. Life is short, but it has its roles. And as volunteers, that's the role we play; it's part of our mission in life," Méndez added.

According to Méndez, around ten rescuers from Topos Azteca will join rescue efforts. The rescuers are from Mexico, Guatemala, and the US.

Méndez, who also worked as a volunteer in the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts, added: "I know the US way of work, you have to be patient and respectful, you have to wait for your turn because you're coming from another country, we got permission, now we're waiting for our turn."

Last Thursday, a Go Team comprising of some seven international volunteers from Cadena, a Jewish nonprofit rescue group based in Miami with multiple offices across Latin America, arrived in Florida to join in rescue efforts, according to their website. Israel also deployed a rescue team to assist with rescue and recovery efforts in Florida.

 

2:26 p.m. ET, June 28, 2021

Preliminary federal probe into Surfside collapse could lead to rare formal investigation

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

Emily Michot/Miami Herald/AP
Emily Michot/Miami Herald/AP

A six-person team of federal officials including scientists, structural engineers and a geotechnical engineer arrived in Florida late Sunday night to assess the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. 

The team, sent from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is conducting a preliminary investigation of the collapsed building’s materials, history and applicable building codes at the time the condo was built, the ground surrounding the building and numerous other factors, an agency official said.

“I was able to meet with the NIST folks today,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.

The NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the US Department of Commerce, which was founded in 1901, according to their website. NIST works to “promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.” 

Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said NIST has investigated a “number of structural incidents around the country, and are the best of the best when it comes to making sure that they do a complete and thorough overview.”

DeSantis warned that investigation will take some time. 

“It is something that can be very thorough and it is something that is not going to happen in a day or two, this is going to take a long time, that's the time horizon they work on,” he said.

The agency will determine whether to open a formal investigation in the next two weeks, the NIST official said. If they do decide to launch an investigation, it will be significant — the agency has only launched four official investigations since it was given this power after Sept. 11, 2001. If a full investigation is conducted, its ultimate goal would be to determine the technical cause of the collapse and, if indicated, to recommend changes to building codes, standards and practices or other appropriate actions to improve the structural safety of buildings.  

Past preliminary investigations were the result of natural disasters such as earthquakes, fire and windstorms, or construction/design failures or terrorist attack. Most recently, NIST has sent preliminary teams to the Gulf area in 2017 for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; to Paradise, California, after the 2018 Camp Fire, which led to an ongoing study; and now for the Surfside condominium collapse.