Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County has officially given the go-ahead for a grand jury investigation into the Miami building collapse that occurred around 1:30 a.m. on June 24. The towers were composed of 40-year old luxury condominiums in Surfside. And as of Tuesday morning, 11 people have been pronounced dead, but there is still a search underway for at least 150 people. Searches are becoming frantic, and people are asking one main question: How could this possibly happen? The collapse happened so suddenly, and as it so often goes, misinformation is rampant, and fact-checking databases are in overtime. So, where did it all start?
What we know
The towers came down in increments.
Investigations are starting in the lower parts of the building, closest to the bottom floor or the parking garage. The condo collapsed like an avalanche, signaling that there was a massive structural flaw. It also came down in increments. But the building wasn’t the only part that caved. Experts think the pool area south of the building collapsed before the building had even started to fall, though these claims are unverified.
The structural integrity had been diminished for years.
This collapse seemed to come without warning. But there’s a paper trail showing negligence concerning the rocky integrity of the condo. A 2018 governmental report sourced out of Miami of a top to bottom inspection shows several flaws in the building’s foundation.“MC recommends that the Entrance/Pool deck concrete slabs that are showing distress be removed and replaced in their entirety,” the report said. This is the very area experts think may have been the first to cave.
With saltwater nearby, water damage was inevitable. And with existing flaws in the structure, the risk of collapse has been high for many years. But this wasn’t the only warning: Miami residents claim this was one of five warnings of the lack of structural integrity.
The concrete was unstable.
It’s hard to believe that concrete can be fragile, but in areas like northern Miami with high heat and saltwater, the smallest structural flaw can be devastating. Spalling occurs when concrete breaks down. And construction companies warn all homeowners that, “As soon as spalling [is] spotted, it should be properly repaired; otherwise, it compromises concrete surface integrity and jeopardizes ultimate capacity of the member.”
As previously detailed in the 2018 governmental report, spalling was clear in 2018. Its causes can vary, including corrosion (like from a water source, which is a possibility in Miami), low-quality concrete, or an Alkali Silica Reaction, commonly called “cement cancer.” Surely, spalling left untreated will cause destruction.
This Surfside tragedy is a warning to the vast Miami area about the structure of the high-rise towers that frequent beachfront real estate. Procrastinating on high-cost renovations has proved fatal, so landlords and architects likely will be held to a higher standard. As first responders work hard to locate the missing individuals, accountability and support will be at the forefront. The world has Miami in its thoughts as officials try to find answers.