The Slatest

Three Years Before Collapse, Engineer Warned of “Major Structural Damage” at Florida Condo

Danya Kalla looks at pictures of missing people on June 25, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.
Danya Kalla looks at pictures of missing people on June 25, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Although the cause for the deadly collapse of the South Florida condo near Miami is still unknown, there was a startling revelation late Friday that gave the strongest hints yet of what may have happened. A 2018 engineering report warned of a “major errorin the construction of the building and found that Champlain Towers South had “major structural damage” in the concrete slab below its pool deck. The city of Surfside released the report along with a series of other documents late Friday as rescuers continue operations to find any clues on the 159 people who remain missing after the collapse that killed at least four people. The management association of the condominium complex had already revealed the building had some problems but the October 2018 report made the full extent of the problem much more clear.

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The engineer’s report was part of the reason why the condo was set to undergo a multimillion-dollar repair project. But a lawyer for the owners of the building said the whole thing would have been done much quicker if they had been clearly told that there was a serious threat. Some officials, however, say the report suggests the condo’s board was told about the issues with the building and failed to act in a timely manner.

Although the report by Morabito Consultants didn’t warn there was imminent danger, it did make clear there were some serious issues and there had been a “major error” in the original design of the building. In particular, the report said waterproofing had been done poorly below the pool deck and there was no way for water to drain. “The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” the report said. It also warned of “abundant cracking and spalling” of concrete columns and added that “most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion,” detailing that the repairs were needed to maintain “the structural integrity” of the building.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava vowed in an interview Saturday morning that investigators will be looking at all possible causes for the collapse. “We have hope, and we need to continue to focus on that,” she said on NBC’s Today. “We are going to get to the bottom of this and find answers and prevent this from happening again.” Although the number of people unaccounted for remain the same, rescuers are still holding out hope of finding survivors. “They are working to find people alive,” she said.

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