Smoldering Fires Hampering Rescue Efforts In Miami Building Collapse

It looks like the scene of a terrorist attack.

The death toll had risen to four early Friday with about 159 people unaccounted for as crews continued to search the rubble of the collapsed condominium tower near Miami. Those numbers remained unchanged as of Saturday morning, but the fires that continue to smolder beneath the rubble are hindering rescue efforts as the precious minutes tick by.

Crews have been searching through the rubble since the sudden collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers in Surfside, about 3 miles north of Miami Beach.

Local officials were still looking into the cause of the collapse. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said that the building was undergoing roof work, but it’s unknown whether that was a factor in the collapse. The building’s condo association was getting ready to make updates and repairs on the building, which has deteriorated over the years leading to extensive inspections. The roof was undergoing work and the construction projects nearby led to scrutiny.

A lawyer for the condo association said there were signs of water damage to the complex, but oceanfront properties often have that, and that alone would not have caused the collapse. A 2015 lawsuit was filed over water damage and cracks on the outside wall of the building engineers were hired for the inspection process.

Engineers had pointed out evidence of flooding, cracking, and corrosion in the building after Morabito Consultants found in a 2018 structural survey report that columns in the condo’s garage were cracked and needed to be replaced, according to ABC News and CNN.

Surfside’s building official, James “Jim” McGuinness, said at an emergency meeting with town leaders Friday he was inspecting the roof anchors for cleaning the windows on the side of the building 14 hours before the collapse. There was “no inordinate amount of equipment or materials” that would cause the building to fall, McGuinness said regarding the roof anchors at the emergency meeting. The building was due for 40-year recertification this year, he confirmed, although he did not give an exact date.


Environmentalists have been pointing out that climate change is contributing to rising sea levels and eradicating the beaches. Florida’s elected officials, particularly Governor Ron DeSantis, continue to ignore the literal underlying issues in having residential beachfront properties built on such unstable grounds because they’re so financially viable.

“This is a horrific catastrophe,” Mayor Burkett told CNN. “In the United States, buildings just don’t fall down.”

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