The latest on the partial building collapse near Miami

By Melissa Mahtani, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 11:21 a.m. ET, June 30, 2021
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2:54 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami-Dade County mayor says a potential grand jury would look into what contributed to the collapse

From CNN’s Amanda Watts and Rosa Flores

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks to the media during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on June 28.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks to the media during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on June 28. Jose A Iglesias/Miami Herald/AP

The mayor of Miami-Dade County said Tuesday she would support the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office opening a grand jury investigation into the catastrophic collapse at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.

“The grand jury can choose to investigate anything it chooses,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “In this case it would be the matter of this building collapse, and what is contributed, and what should be done.”

Levine Cava said there is currently a grand jury impaneled which is working on other issues. It has not been decided if they would take up this case, or if it would fall to the next grand jury that is seated. 

The mayor promised she will do everything she can to ensure this does not happen again. “This will never ever happen again, not on my watch. We are going to do everything we possibly can to ensure that," Levine Cava said.

Earlier today, she said she has been speaking to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle about the matter.  

2:25 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Collapsed bedrooms are under 13 to 16 feet of concrete, rescue worker says

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Col. Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit, speaks to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on June 29.
Col. Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit, speaks to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on June 29. CNN

The commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit said Tuesday the collapsed bedrooms from the Champlain Towers South building are under 13 to 16 feet of concrete.

“This building collapsed very, very badly, if I can use this word, because it collapsed into itself. And the bedrooms that we are looking for, because the people [slept] in the bedrooms are under four or five meters of concrete,” Col. Golan Vach, commander of the Israeli National Rescue Unit, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.

Vach said his team is comprised of 15 people who are mostly engineers and search and rescue experts. He said his team found new spaces in the rubble to search Monday and Tuesday.

“So there is still hope,” Vach said. “Until one week, I have a solid hope that we will find someone. After one week, it’s minor.” 

He said he had never seen a collapse like the one at Champlain Towers South.

“This is the most difficult site I have ever worked but I still have hope,” Vach said noting there are “major dangers and issues that we must consider when we enter rescuers into this site.”


1:55 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Condo homeowner says he paid a $95,000 assessment as part of recertification effort

From CNN's Daniel Medina

On Thursday morning, Francesco Cordaro and his wife watched on TV as their apartment building in Surfside partially collapsed. At home in Staten Island, New York, they had planned to move to South Florida full-time for retirement.

“The ocean view. The size. The location. I loved everything about that apartment,” said Cordaro, 65, who says he and his wife were in Surfside last month. “All my dreams are shattered.”

Cordaro purchased the apartment in January 2019. That month, he says, he attended a Champlain Towers South condo association meeting where the upcoming 40-year recertification was discussed, along with minor bureaucratic items, but there was no mention of any structural issues in the tower. 

“We knew that we were going to have the recertification, but no other specific claims were made at that time about any structural problems,” said Cordaro.

For his part, Cordaro says earlier this month he paid out just over $95,000 for his portion of the building’s “special assessment fee” in connection to the recertification. He says he has not yet hired any legal representation to recoup damages “out of respect” for the tower’s missing residents.

“Certainly, someone needs to pay for this,” said Cordaro. “I don’t know who, what, when but certainly someone has to pay.”

1:53 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Here's what the Biden administration says will be included in the federal response to condo collapse

From CNN’s Kristen Holmes

As rescuers continue to look for people in the rubble of a collapsed condo building in Surfside, Florida, the Biden administration is outlining the federal response to the disaster.

Here's what is included, according to one official:

  • The emergency declaration the President approved authorizes FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts, reimburse response costs, provide equipment and resources to assist with debris removal and emergency protective measures in order to try to save lives – and to provide temporary shelter and housing to alleviate the hardship and suffering for those who have been displaced.
  • FEMA has more than 50 personnel on site coordinating closely with state and local officials and providing assistance. 
  • FEMA has deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team as well as building science experts, structural engineers and geotechnical experts to support search and rescue operations, and a mobile command center. 
  • A Family Assistance Center opened Monday by state and local officials. FEMA has staff there to assist survivors in applying for federal assistance, to include temporary housing and funeral assistance. 
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is sending a Team Leader, geotechnical and structural safety specialists and debris removal experts to provide technical assistance.
  • A representative from the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions is in Surfside to coordinate with federal response efforts and help facilitate visas for foreign family members of victims. 
  • In addition, FEMA has liaisons on the ground providing support to ensure information is available on federal assistance to survivors and families.

The President is expected to travel to Surfside with first lady Jill Biden on Thursday.

The condo collapse is on track to become the largest mass casualty event of the Biden presidency so far, with at least 11 people dead and 150 unaccounted for.

2:09 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Catch up: What to know about the preliminary investigation of the condo collapse so far 

After Champlain Towers South partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, last Thursday, questions continue to be asked about the building’s structural integrity.

While the official cause of the collapse remains unknown, local and federal officials have begun efforts to try to determine why the building partially collapsed, and also prevent similar events from happening in neighboring buildings.

Here’s everything you need to know about the investigation so far:

  • Warnings before the collapse: An April 2021 letter from the condo's board president to residents said some damage observed in a 2018 engineer's report, including in the garage, "has gotten significantly worse." The 2018 report from an engineering firm documented severe structural damage to the concrete slab below the pool deck and "cracking and spalling" located in the parking garage. Spalling is a term used to describe areas of concrete that have cracked or crumbled.
  • The federal team: A group of federal officials from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is launching 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, according to an agency official. The six-person team includes scientists, structural engineers and a geotechnical engineer.
  • The timeline: Allyn Kilsheimer, the structural engineer hired by the town of Surfside to look into the reasons for the collapse, said his investigation could last a few months or longer, although an exact time frame is unknown. Kilsheimer said he has started examining the building and will use a meticulous, computer-assisted process of elimination to attempt to identify the cause or causes. "Unless it's a plane or a bomb that you know triggered this whole thing, sometimes you can't get it down to one cause," he explained. "You don't know what you're going to end up with until you finish the whole study."
  • Potential leads: Although it still remains unknown why the building partially collapsed, engineers who have reviewed the case say the investigation should focus on potential failures near the building’s base. According to Sinisa Kolar, a Miami-based engineering executive, forensic engineers will need to examine the ground-floor columns. In addition, Kolar expects investigators will test samples of concrete and cross-reference that with structural drawings. Meanwhile, Joel Figueroa-Vallines, president of SEP Engineers, said he thinks it's too early to reach conclusions, but also said he would focus an investigation on the foundation and the "podium level" of the pool deck. 
  • A possibly deadly combination: In addition to structural problems and “40 years of exposure to salt, water and salt air,” the collapse may have been influenced by vibrations from construction work, heavy equipment on the roof and water damage from the building’s pool, according to Mehrdad Sasani, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University.
  • What’s next: Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she will be meeting with experts in subject areas like engineering, geology, construction and legal fields to prevent this tragedy from happening again. “They will advise me on issues related to building construction, chain of custody and requirements for reporting, condominium regulation and more, so that my staff and I can develop a set of recommendations for changes that need to be made at all steps in the building process to ensure a tragedy like this will never, ever happen again,” she said. 

Read more about the rescue efforts and investigation here.

CNN's Curt Devine, Hollie Silverman, Alyssa Kraus, Deanna Hackney and Jamiel Lynch contributed reporting to this post. 

1:09 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami-Dade County mayor says she will support a grand jury investigation

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos and Amanda Watts

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Source: WPLG

The mayor of Miami-Dade County said Tuesday said she would support the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office opening a grand jury investigation into the catastrophic collapse at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, “the grand jury has not yet been impaneled,” but she has been speaking to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. 

CNN reached out to Fernandez Rundle’s office, who said a statement is forthcoming. 

“We were talking about whenever it is moving forward, that we will be fully on board,” Levine Cava said.

“I am very supportive of the grand jury investigation,” Levine Cava said. “I have pledged my full cooperation, as she moves forward.”

Levine Cava noted that she is very familiar with the grand jury process.

12:41 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Street closures stay in place around site of collapsed building

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Miami-Dade Police are warning people of traffic closures around the site of the collapse condo building in Surfside.

The department tweeted that Collins Avenue from 81st to 91st street is closed, in addition to Harding Avenue from 81st to 96th street.

Officials said the routes will still be open to residents, hotel staff and guests, and employees and customers of businesses.

At a news conference on Tuesday, the police department said officers are reevaluating the traffic closures on a daily basis.

Read the tweet:

12:34 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

More than 800 responders assisting with Surfside search and rescue effort, official says

From CNN's Tina Burnside 

More than 800 responders from 60 agencies are on the ground assisting with the search and rescue efforts in Surfside, Florida, according to Miami-Dade Deputy Incident Commander Charles Cyrille. 

During a news briefing on Tuesday, Cyrille said the unified search and rescue efforts consist of multiple departments to include police, water and sewer and county attorneys. 

This is in addition to the assistance being offered by federal state, local, international and not for profit organizations, Cyrille said. 

More than 440 state workers are also on the ground assisting with the search efforts, officials said. 

12:29 p.m. ET, June 29, 2021

"Nobody is giving up hope here," Surfside mayor says

Surfside, Florida, Mayor Charles Burkett.
Surfside, Florida, Mayor Charles Burkett. Source: WPLG

As search and rescue operations entered their sixth day, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said "nobody is giving up hope."

"Nobody is giving up hope here. Nobody is stopping. The work goes on. Full force," he told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. 

"We’re dedicated to get everyone out of that pile of rubble, and reunite them with their families," he added. 

"We have all the resources, what I’ve been saying since the beginning. We don’t have a resource problem. We have a luck problem. As you know, we just got dumped on by some rain, but thankfully it looks like that’s clearing. But the work will go on. We’ll continue to work at 100%,” the mayor continued.