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
11 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
10:38 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

FEMA administrator tells lawmakers devastation at Surfside collapse site is "difficult to put into words"

From CNN's Liz Stark and Lauren Hakimi

FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell.
FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell. Source: Committee Webstream

FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell described how the devastation at the Champlain Towers South collapse site is “difficult to put into words,” after visiting Surfside, Florida, over the weekend.

“It’s difficult to put into words the devastation that this community is experiencing. Our hearts go out to all the families and loved ones that have been impacted by this event,” Criswell said at a congressional hearing Tuesday.

Criswell praised local rescue efforts and also noted that “FEMA is on the ground,” where they have a recovery center “that is working directly with families and loved ones impacted by this tragic event to get them the assistance that they need.”

“We will continue to bring resources to support the ongoing response and recovery efforts,” she told lawmakers.

This comes after Criswell visited Surfside at President Joe Biden’s direction on Sunday.

“What I heard from Administrator Criswell was excruciating,” Biden later wrote in a readout of his call with the FEMA official. “She reiterated that words can’t describe the scene on the ground and she gave me an update on meetings she had with state and local officials to ensure they have everything they need.” 

During Tuesday’s hearing, Criswell noted that FEMA’s mission of helping people “has never been more critical” in the wake of disasters like the Surfside collapse.

“Our role supporting incidents such as the Champlain Towers collapse, our support of the COVID-19 pandemic response, and numerous other active disasters attests to vital importance and responsibility of this agency to our nation,” she said.

9:52 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

A nearby condo complex is working to repair similar damage. Here's what it looks like inside.

From CNN's Brian Todd and Elise Hammond

The condition of the Champlain Tower South building that collapsed in Surfside, Florida, is not unique. Because people are living in similar buildings all up the coastline, inspectors say they are worried about another disaster.

In an exclusive look inside the Winston Towers condominium complex in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, a few miles north of Surfside, construction is underway to fix structural deterioration, CNN Correspondent Brian Todd reports.

There are 7 buildings in the complex that are the same age or older than the building that collapsed in Surfside. Each building is at least 20 stories tall with at least 250 units in each building.

Officials say inspecting and repairing this building started about 6 months before the Surfside collapse. It will take another 2 to 3 years to fully complete, Todd reports.

Video from the construction site shows damage inside the parking garage right by the pool deck – the same place inspectors reported damage to Champlain Tower South. Officials told CNN the columns and concrete floor is cracking and the rebar cables that are supporting the concrete are rusting.

Those inspectors told Todd the chlorine from the pool has deteriorated those cables, prompting major repairs.

When one inspector was asked how concerned he was, he replied, "very concerned."

"Because it could fail and people could die," he added.

The inspectors emphasized that this is normal wear and tear for buildings like this and it doesn't mean the structure is in danger of collapsing, Todd reports.

Local leaders are now trying to prevent similar catastrophes to the Surfside collapse.

Here's what other cities are doing:

  • CNN affiliate WPOG is reporting the city of Miami beach is deploying an army of structural engineers to inspect all across the city. All of them currently undergoing their 40 year recertification process. 
  • Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer said his city is creating "more stringent standards for certifications of buildings" following the Surfside collapse.
  • Sunny Isles Beach, Vice Mayor Larisa Svechin said inspections on older condo buildings are underway.

CNN Exclusive: See how a nearby building is working to repair its own damage:

9:47 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

How to help Surfside building collapse victims

From CNN's Ashley Vaughan

A person adds flowers to a memorial that has pictures of some of the missing from the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 28, in Surfside, Florida.
A person adds flowers to a memorial that has pictures of some of the missing from the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 28, in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Rescue workers continue to dig through rubble and debris looking for signs of life after Thursday morning's building collapse in the town of Surfside, just north of Miami, Florida. Around 1:30 a.m., an estimated 55 condominiums fell to the ground, most of them with residents asleep inside. 

As families wait in agony for updates on missing loved ones, there are ways you can ensure they don't face this situation alone. Organizations are on the ground to help

To donate to some of the organizations click here.

9:24 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Condo resident said he is alive today because girlfriend insisted he stay over on night of collapse

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Erick de Moura, a resident of the partially collapsed building in Surfside, Florida, said he is alive today because he stayed over at his girlfriend’s home on Wednesday night.

“I was supposed to come back home because I had some appointments in the morning. And I was right at the door about to leave,” de Moura told CNN’s John Berman. 
“But she kept insisting for me to stay. And when I woke up at 5:30 to check my phone … I had some notifications telling me that the building had collapsed.”

The condo resident said he saw he had received a message from someone who worked in the building around 3:30 a.m. ET asking if he was OK.

“You're half awake and half asleep, and somebody tells you your home collapsed. A building in Miami. You just don't believe it,” he said. 

He said that he is now living with other surviving residents in a hotel.  

“So there's definitely a lot of pain at this moment. I'm very grateful to be alive, but very sad for the tragedy of everybody,” de Moura said. 

De Moura said he was aware of the letter obtained by CNN that warned just months before the collapse that damage to the condo building was accelerating.

“There were leaks in the garage. There were cracks on the balconies. So, yes, you need the money to fix it, you know. But unfortunately it was too late,” he said. 

De Moura said the reality of the situation still hasn’t sunk in yet for him. 

“I haven't realized what happened. I haven't cried. I feel like I'm in a movie and the movie is going to end sometime soon … That was my home,” he said. 

Watch:

9:18 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Surfside mayor says there is some concern about falling debris in search and rescue effort

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. Source: CNN

Surfside, Florida, Mayor Charles Burkett said there are “waves of men and women” involved in the search and rescue effort of the collapsed building. 

“I was told there’s about 100 people on the pile right now, with hundreds waiting standing by to get up there as those men and women tire out. So, I'm not too concerned about the manpower issue. I just want to be able to keep working,” he said. 

Burkett also said there is now concern about some falling debris at the site. 

“Overnight, they did have some stuff falling down from the building that's still standing. And that's going to have to be addressed. I understand from my discussions over the past few days that they will address that, they will have to pick those pieces off, tie them to the crane, cut the steel, and remove them so it's safe for the workers to get down in there,” he said.

Burkett said he cannot comment right now on any additional victims found out of respect for the families but will give an update later in the morning. 

9:18 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

2021 letter details decay at Champlain Towers South

A 2021 correspondence from Champlain Towers South Board President Jean Wodnicki addressed to neighbors describes the progression of decay at the building since the 2018 Morabito structural survey report saying, “…the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection.”

The letter was obtained by CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront.

The letter received by a Champlain Towers South resident on April 9 of this year continues: “The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated.”

Wodnicki further describes issues facing the building saying, “When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface. 

The Structural Field survey performed in 2018 by Morabito Consultants Inc., found several things including major structural damage below the pool deck, according to the report. 

“The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas,” states the report. 

In a statement to CNN, Morabito Consultants wrote that the report "detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete.”

The report didn't say whether the structure was at risk of collapse, but the group said it provided an estimate to the condo association to "make the extensive and necessary repairs."

The April, 2021 letter seeks to explain a $15 million special assessment dollar price tag to condo owners that would be discussed at an upcoming meeting, saying that the initial scope of the 2018 work estimates have now expanded.

“Other previously identified projects have been rolled under the main project. New problems have been identified. Also, costs go up every year. This is how we have gone from the estimated $9,128,433.60 cited in Morabito’s 2018 report, to the much larger figure we have today.” 

 The buildings board later approved the $15 million dollar in repairs according to an assessment letter obtained by CNN. 

CNN has reached out to representatives of Champlain Towers South Condominium Association for further comment.

CNN's John Berman reports:

9:17 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Surfside condo collapse investigation could take months, structural engineer says

From CNN's Hollie Silverman, Deanna Hackney and Jamiel Lynch

Sinisa Kolar.
Sinisa Kolar. Source: CNN

While there are no clear answers on the cause of the deadly Florida condo collapse, early signs point to some failure in the lower reaches of the 13-story building, perhaps in its foundation, columns or underground parking garage, according to experts.

At least 11 people have died in the Champlain Towers Collapse, and 150 remain missing following the tragedy. More than 136 people have been accounted for, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. The deceased victims range in age from 26 to 82.

Forensic engineers will need to examine the ground-floor columns in their investigation, Sinisa Kolar, a Miami-based engineering executive, told CNN.

He explained that samples of concrete will need to be tested to examine the condition and then those samples will need to be cross-referenced with structural drawings.

"The key element to this investigation, in my opinion, lies in that rubble, in those columns and condition of the structural elements," Kolar said.

The investigation could take months or longer, according to Allyn Kilsheimer, the structural engineer hired by the town of Surfside. He has started to examine the building and will use a meticulous, computer-assisted process of elimination to attempt to identify the cause or causes, he said.

"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 said. "You don't know what you're going to end up with until you finish the whole study."

A pool contractor who was servicing the condo pool 36 hours before its collapse told the Miami Herald he had seen standing water and cracks in concrete underneath the pool deck. He noted that it was not the area under the collapse site.

When he first entered the building, the pool area and upper lobby looked fine, but when he walked into the basement garage under the pool deck, he claims he saw lots of standing water and claims to have found cracks in the concrete in the pool equipment room, according to Miami Herald reporter Sarah Blaskey.

"He took a picture of that concrete to send to his boss, because he was there to do a little bit of cosmetic stuff to the pool, but he thought, 'Wow, this is going to be a bigger job,' took a picture, sent it to his boss," Blaskey told CNN. 

While families grieve and hope and officials investigate, the mayor of Surfside said the primary focus is to get victims out of the debris. 

"The number one priority here is pulling these people out of the rubble and we're going to focus only on that. The second priority is supporting the families," Charles Burkett told CNN's John Berman on Monday night.

Miami Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said the search efforts are "a slow process, but we're definitely making progress." Rescuers are working 12-hour shifts and efforts have continued nonstop since the collapse early Thursday morning.

Read more about the investigation here.

7:32 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

507 older buildings in Miami Beach will be visited by structural engineers

From CNN’s Joe Sutton 

In the wake of the fatal collapse of the Surfside high-rise condominium last Thursday, the neighboring city of Miami Beach made a decision Monday night to deploy structural engineers out to its buildings that are currently undergoing their 40-year recertification process, according to CNN affiliate WPLG.

A total of 507 buildings in Miami Beach fall under that category, Miami Beach City Manager Alina Hudak said to WPLG. 

“I have asked our building official to send inspectors out to do what, quite frankly in this first week, is going to be a very cursory visual review,” she said.

Crews completed 130 property visits as of Monday evening, WPLG reports. 

The city is also sending out a letter asking for updated preliminary inspection reports within the next 21 days; and city officials are hoping this process can be completed within the next 10 days, WPLG says.  

9:17 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Miami Marlins create relief fund for those impacted by Surfside collapse

From CNN’s Joe Sutton

Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins announced they will be creating a Marlins Surfside Relief Fund in conjunction with the Miami Marlins Foundation, a news release Monday said.

Bruce Sherman, the Marlins' principal owner and chairman, made the first donation with a $50,000 personal contribution. That amount was matched by Anthony Hsieh, the founder and CEO of Marlins naming-rights partner loanDepot, Inc., with a $50,000 personal donation.  

The news release also said that “the Marlins organization and Marlins ownership group will make an additional $25,000 contribution to the Relief Fund while loanDepot continues to step up to the plate in our community’s time of need with a $25,000 donation, and will join the Marlins to match the next $50,000 contributed to the fund.”

Fans and community members can also donate to the relief fund.