The latest on the partial building collapse near Miami

By Melissa Macaya and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:33 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021
20 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
7:03 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

6 cases of Covid-19 reported among Surfside search and rescuers

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

Six cases of Covid-19 have developed among the search and rescue operations at Surfside, Florida, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky. 

At a news conference Friday evening, Cominsky said that the outbreak was among one of the teams from Florida.

"So we do have our medical procedures in place, you know, unfortunately, this is another challenge but something that we've been dealing with for over the past year," Cominsky said. 

The task force that contained the positive Covid-19 has been "demobilized," according to the chief, and protocols, including isolation, were put into place. 

8:40 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

North Miami Beach orders immediate closure of Crestview Towers Condominium building

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess.

Crestview Towers Condominium building in North Miami Beach.
Crestview Towers Condominium building in North Miami Beach. CNN

Based on a late recertification report submitted to the City of North Miami Beach today, the city determined a Crestview Towers Condominium building is unsafe and has ordered the immediate evacuation and closure of the building, Arthur H. Sorey, city manager, announced this evening.

The city ordered the immediate closure for unsafe structural and electrical conditions following the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside last week, which launched a review by North Miami Beach of all high-rise condo buildings above five stories.

Crestview Towers submitted a recertification report dated Jan. 11, 2021, in which an engineer attained by the condo association concluded that the 156 unit building was structurally and electrically unsafe.

Crestview Towers was built in 1972, according to Sorey. According to Sorey, the building should have been in its 40-year recertification process, but they hadn’t been in compliance.

“And that’s what pushed us to push the issue of their compliance and then that's when they submitted their report,” the city manager said, adding a 30-day notice of closure was posted by the city yesterday and the condo’s report was submitted to the city around 2 p.m. Friday. 

According to the city manager, the report mentions concrete and electrical problems.

6:23 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Search and rescue efforts at collapse site are "so excruciating for everyone," Miami-Dade County mayor says

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava provided some insight into how first responders and families in Surfside, Florida, are coping as search and rescue efforts continue at the condo collapse site.

"This is so excruciating for everyone, the waiting and waiting and hoping and praying for the families, especially, of course, and also for the first responders. This is really their passion. It's a calling for them. They rush back to the scene," the mayor told CNN this afternoon. "They don't want to miss any opportunity, any moment to be saving lives. And, so, it's just been a nightmare scenario for everyone involved."

6:11 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Death toll following condo collapse rises to 22, Miami-Dade County mayor says

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on July 2.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava speaks during a press conference in Surfside, Florida, on July 2. CNN

The number of lives lost following the condo collapse has risen to 22, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said this afternoon during a news conference.

"[O]ver the course of today's search, we did recover two additional victims. We now have 22 confirmed deaths; 188 people accounted for and 126 unaccounted for. Our detectives are continually editing this list as we verify every single report that we have received regarding a potentially missing person. And, as a result, these numbers will continue to change as we've told you so often," Levine Cava said.

Levine Cava also said she signed an emergency order "authorizing the demolition of the building in the interest of public health and safety as soon as the engineers sign off on the next steps to begin the demolition process."

3:25 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Biden amends Florida emergency declaration to cover 100% of eligible costs for debris removal

From CNN's DJ Judd

The White House announced Friday it was increasing “the level of federal funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures undertaken in the state of Florida as a result of the Surfside building collapse beginning on June 24, 2021, and continuing.”

“Under the President's order today, the federal share for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program has been increased to 100% of the total eligible costs for a continuous period of 30 days beginning June 24, 2021," the declaration said.

Some context: Biden hinted at the announcement yesterday in Florida, telling reporters after he met with the families of those missing in the Surfside collapse, “I think my colleagues will tell you we cut through the bureaucracy."

"The one — the one order I gave federal folks was, 'No bureaucracy. Just cut through it. Get to whatever they need.' That’s why we’ve decided to cover, for example, 100% of the search-and-rescue costs for the first 30 days. Not done often but necessary here, in my view," he continued.

4:31 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Officials continue to search for answers as to what triggered the collapse. Here's what we know so far. 

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Mark Humphrey/AP
Mark Humphrey/AP

As families mourn and worry for their loved ones, some Surfside residents and officials are criticizing the management of the building, saying more should have been done to prevent the structure from crashing down in the middle of the night last week.

Officials say they still haven't found what triggered the collapse.

From an early construction halt to assurances that the building was fine, here is what we know so far about the damage and repairs the condo underwent:

  • Early halts to construction: Before Champlain Towers South and its sister building opened, there was controversy around its construction, which violated local regulations, documents show. The Surfside acting town manager at the time, George Curti, told the building complex's contractor in a Dec. 2, 1980, letter that "you are instructed to immediately cease any further construction on any penthouses" at either of the Champlain Towers buildings. The town attorney had determined that the penthouses were "a violation of the Code of the Town of Surfside," Curti wrote. The following week, the town council passed an ordinance granting the buildings an exception, allowing the penthouse construction to go forward, Curti wrote in a follow-up letter on Dec. 11. The decades-old controversy was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Monday. The issue was over the buildings' height: The penthouses had not been in the original plans and they brought both buildings above the town's 12-story height limit, the Journal reported.
  • The 2018 report: Maryland-based Morabito Consultants performed a structural analysis of the building as part of Champlain Towers South's 40-year recertification effort — a stringent process for updates and improvements enacted after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Morabito Consultants' structural field survey had noted "abundant cracking and spalling" in concrete columns and walls, "exposed, deteriorating rebar" and failing waterproofing beneath the pool deck and entrance drive that was causing "major structural damage."
  • 2020 letter highlights extensive damage and attempted repairs: A 2020 letter from Morabito Consultants to association board president Jean Wodnicki gave a nine-page summary of the extent of the damage and the work that was being done to address it. All the loose concrete around the perimeter of the pool pump room that showed signs of cracking, spalling and deterioration and that presented a "fall hazard" was removed by a concrete restoration firm, according to the work summary. But not all of the work could be completed at the time, according to the letter.
  • "The concrete deterioration is accelerating": After inspecting the building in 2018, Morabito wrote in his report that "failed waterproofing" below the pool deck was "causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas" and warned that failure to replace it in the near future would cause "concrete deterioration to expand exponentially." A 2021 letter to the building residents from the condominium association's president confirmed that the exponential deterioration had indeed taken place in the interim years. "The concrete deterioration is accelerating," wrote Jean Wodnicki, the association president. "The observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial [2018] inspection."
  • An estimated $15 million in repairs needed: The condo association debated an estimated $9 million in repairs to the building in 2018, and disputes over the lackluster response in tackling the repairs led to five of the seven board members resigning that year, the Washington Post reported, citing board meeting minutes and association president Anette Goldstein's resignation letter. The estimated cost for repairs had grown to about $15 million by the time the work was approved by the board in 2021, according to an assessment letter obtained by CNN. Those costs were to be paid by the residents.

Read more about the building's damage and repairs here.

2:09 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Demolition of remaining Surfside condo structure "will take some time" to occur, Miami-Dade County mayor says

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Mark Humphrey)/AP
Mark Humphrey)/AP

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday that "it is important to stress....that a demolition cannot be done overnight; in fact, it takes weeks to demolish a building."

Levine Cava said during a briefing that county officials have "had a couple of meetings with the engineers" regarding plans to demolish the remaining structure from the collapse site. 

"They're meeting regularly to look at exactly what will be the process, and we are going to move expeditiously...on decision-making, but it will take some time for the demolition to occur," the mayor said.

"We're proceeding with our evaluation of all of the factors, all of the time, and the impacts related to the demolition of the building," Levine Cava explained.

Some more context: Officials have been considering demolishing the rest of the condo as operations continue in sections that crumbled to the ground a week ago, Levine Cava said Thursday evening.

Work on the debris was halted for much of the day yesterday as engineers assessed the structure still standing. Levine Cava told reporters at an evening news conference the operation resumed at about 4:45 p.m. ET. Engineers are conducting ongoing testing and evaluations of the site to expand the search into more areas as it becomes safe to do so, she said. 

CNN's Theresa Waldrop, Madeline Holcombe and Steve Almasy contributed reporting to this post.

1:26 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Surfside mayor says county and local resources "joining together" to accommodate affected families

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Surfside Mayor Charles Burket
Surfside Mayor Charles Burket CNN

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Friday that county and local resources have been working to accommodate the displaced residents of the Champlain Towers South, and "there's not any dissatisfaction" that he can detect with the process.

"I can tell you from firsthand experience that the families appreciate it and acknowledge it, and they do it over and over again in those meetings [with officials], so there's not any dissatisfaction [that] I've been able to detect," Burkett said.

"I'm looking for that because..I've got a very small role, but I make it a point to be where everybody is so that if there is a problem, I can bring it up to [Miami-Dade] County Mayor Cava, I can bring it up to Florida Gov. DeSantis, and I can make our senators aware, and that's what I've been doing," Burkett said.

"That's been working because when there has been a glitch, it has been immediately addressed," he said.

"Our resources, our county resources, our local resources all the municipalities that are joining together, it's like a chorus, and it's just playing beautifully," Burkett said. 

1:01 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Surfside rescuers pay respect to victims when found at collapse site, fire chief says

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky
Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky CNN

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said the Miami firefighter whose daughter was found in the Surfside collapse Thursday was not part of that rescue process "but obviously was notified."

According to Cominsky, Florida Task Force 2 (FL-TF2) was working the rescue on Thursday evening "in different workgroups," which did not include the 7-year-old's father. The fire chief told reporters in a gaggle after the news conference that the father's task force partners found her and then called him over. 

Cominsky also addressed what happens on the site when a victim is found.

"We don't stop because we're searching, but we do make modifications," the official said.

"When we come across an individual ... obviously we pay our respect, we have a process," the fire chief said. "I'm not going to go into details, but with different religious faiths, we have a process that we started from the very, very beginning and we comply with that."

"We'll definitely disclose what we did at a later time," he said.

"I want to emphasize...we do that, we honor all the loved ones that we've lost," he added.