The tragedy that some have called one of the worst disasters in Florida history has already claimed 10 lives while more than 150 remain unaccounted for. As experts look for answers, family and friends of the missing keep the hope alive.
As the Florida sky darkens with thunder and rain, the search for a miracle goes on. Rescue attempts continue after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, a beautiful oceanfront community with several multistory buildings that rise adjacent to Surfside Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.
The tragedy that some have called one of the worst disasters in Florida, if not the deadliest accidental building collapse in American history, has already claimed 10 lives while more than 150 people remain unaccounted for as of June 28.
The 12-story sea-view development built in 1981 collapsed in the early hours of June 24, prompting a massive response from rescue teams and interest from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is sending a team of six scientists and engineers to the site to gather firsthand information.
Three years before its fatal collapse, a report filed by a consultant engineer warned of cracking in the concrete columns, beams, and walls of the parking garage at the base of the structure. The report also stated that “most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion.”
In fact, according to the report obtained by The New York Times, experts are focusing on a spot in the lowest part of the complex. They are looking to determine if an initial failure in or below the underground parking garage could have set off a structural avalanche called “progressive collapse.” Still, experts have warned that finding the cause of the deadly collapse could take months.
Getting to the Bottom
The collapse of an occupied building is a rare occurrence, yet there is a growing sense of urgency to find an explanation for the disaster. This is because near the Surfside complex, as well as in an extensive part of South Florida, a good number of decades-old buildings sit on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, where year after year, storm surge, sea salt, and hurricane winds take their toll.
“Clearly, our buildings need to be structurally sound. We need to have regular reviews, and to the extent that we need to change laws, we will change laws, and we will make sure these things do not happen in the future,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told CNN, while promising to get to the bottom of what happened.
Hoping and Praying
But while the experts continue to search for answers, those who are missing their loved ones continue to pray for a miracle. At Surfside Beach, a day after the tragedy, school children gathered to pray, draw hearts in the sand, and light candles for school friends caught in one of the worst disasters in Florida history.
As the waves gently lapped the sand and seagulls screamed above, news of those found or not found trickled in. But people like Dislamy Pelayo refused to give up hope.
“One person’s prayer is powerful, but a prayer in unity is much more powerful,” the Surfside resident told The Americano. “We must pray for those who are missing, we must pray for the families who were displaced, for the families who are waiting for the disappeared, for the rescuers, for everyone. Don’t stop praying and don’t lose hope, which is the one thing we must not lose.”