Search for condominium survivors in Florida underway; cause of collapse debated US and Canadian news


Rescue workers who feverishly dig a fifth day Monday stressed that they could still find survivors in the ruins of a Florida condo building collapsed, as an explanation of what caused the disaster, a debate arises.

He the number of deaths increased for just four people on Sunday, up to a total of nine confirmed deaths. But there are more than 150 people still missing in Surfside, near Miami. Their families went by bus to a place close enough to observe the intense rescue effort, including firefighters, sniffer dogs and research experts using radar and sonar devices.

Early Monday, a crane lifted a large concrete slab from the pile of rubbish, allowing about 30 lifeguards with hard bars to enter and transport smaller pieces of debris to red buckets, which are emptied into one more container. great for taking them out. The work has been complicated by intermittent rain moving through the area, but at least the fires that made the initial search difficult have been extinguished.

Andy Alvarez, deputy commander of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue incidents, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​Monday that rescuers have been able to find some gaps inside the wreckage, mostly in the basement and parking areas.

“We have more than 80 lifeguards at the same time breaking the walls that collapsed, in a frantic effort to try to rescue those who are still viable and reach the gaps we normally know exist in these buildings,” Alvarez said.

“We were able to make tunnels through the building,” Alvarez added. “It’s a frantic search to look for that hope, that miracle, to see who we can get alive out of this building.”

Others who have seen the remains up close were discouraged by the pending work. Alfredo Lopez, who lived with his wife on a flat on the corner of the sixth floor and narrowly escaped the disaster, said he finds it hard to believe anyone is alive in the rubble.

“I just can’t see anyone, you know; I hope God finds someone, but man, you know, if you saw what I saw: nothingness and then you go over there and you see, like all the rubble. How can anyone survive this? “Lopez told The Associated Press.

Debate on the cause of the collapse

The building collapsed just days before the deadline for condominium owners to begin making heavy payments of more than $ 9 million in repairs that had been recommended nearly three years earlier, in a report warning of “damage important structural issues “.

A city inspector assured residents in 2018 that the building was in “very good condition,” just a month after an engineer warned the hill had suffered significant structural damage that required repair, according to a report from the National Public Radio (NPR).

The 2018 report prepared by an engineering company for the condominium building detected severe concrete deterioration in the underground garage, as well as significant structural damage to the concrete slab under the pool roof.

The engineer, Frank Morabito, reported that the deterioration would “expand exponentially” if not repaired in the near future.

But Ross Prieto, a Surfside inspector who had reviewed the report, met with residents the following month and assured them the building was safe, according to minutes of the meeting first obtained by NPR.

Prieto no longer uses Surfside, according to NPR. He told the Miami Herald that he did not remember receiving the report.

In an email to the city manager the morning after the 2018 meeting, Prieto said it had gone “very well” and that the neighbors ’response was“ positive ”.

The cause of the collapse is still being investigated.

Gregg Schlesinger, a lawyer and former general contractor specializing in construction failure cases, said it was clear that the deficiencies identified in the 2018 report were the main cause of the disaster.

But Donna DiMaggio Berger, a lawyer who works with the condominium association, said the problems were typical of the area’s oldest buildings and did not alarm board members, who lived in the tower with their families.

Jason Borden, a structural engineer who inspected the building last year, agreed that the signs of deterioration were typical and not serious enough to raise red flags.

“What I saw while I was there didn’t alarm me at all,” he told CNN Monday.

Four victims identified

On Sunday, authorities identified the four additional people who had been recovered as 80-year-old Leon Oliwkowicz; Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74; Ana Ortiz, 46; and Luis Bermudez, 26.

The number of people who were not identified was 152, said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. The last person rescued was Thursday, just hours after the collapse.

Family members of the missing react to the entrance of a hotel after visiting the site of a partially collapsed residential building in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Florida, on June 27, 2021 [Marco Bello/Reuters]

In a makeshift monument a block away, a laminated poster with a smiling photo of Bermudez and “Mom Ana Ortiz” hung from a chain link fence, along with other “missing” signs. Flowers and children’s toys were scattered around the fence.

In a letter he shared on Facebook, Bermudez’s father wrote that his son was “My Angel My everything.”

“I love you and I love you forever,” Luis Didi Bermudez wrote. “You are and will be the best of my life.”

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