Security-camera video of the partial collapse at the Champlain Towers South Condo from a neighboring high rise early Thursday is both chilling and revealing.
When discovered in daylight, it revealed the real horror of what had happened. It showed that not one but two sections of the 12-story building had collapsed, one second after the other, turning as many as 55 units into rubble below. The grainy video comes with a warning to viewers because of what it likely signifies: multiple casualties.
By early afternoon, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said 99 residents were unaccounted for. It’s hard to fathom such a massive loss of life. By nightfall, three had been confirmed dead; 35 were dug out alive from destruction by search-and-rescue workers.
What the rubble has buried within is difficult to fathom.
Biden, DeSantis respond
President Joe Biden has promised FEMA aid to Miami-Dade, said County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “This is the incredible, unimaginable situation none of us could have imagined,” she added.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rushed to the scene and was stunned by what he saw. “The television doesn’t do it justice,” he said of the destruction he witnessed. “This is a tragic day.”
But hope had not abandoned those with loved ones unaccounted for. All afternoon, relatives with photos of loved ones begged the media for help in locating them, hoping they were hospitalized or dazed and walking around, or still trapped, but alive. It was a scene reminiscent of the aftermath of the 9/11 horror.
Experts watching the videos of the dramatic event were scratching their heads early on: This just does not happen, one said. Buildings are not designed to collapse this way.
So what happened here?
FIU bridge collapse
We haven’t seen such architectural failure since the 2018 collapse of the FIU pedestrian bridge, which killed six people, motorists driving underneath it. That tragedy was blamed on human error.
Finding out what caused this latest massive structural calamity will likely play out much like the aftermath of a plane crash: There will be several critical components found that led to the catastrophic event. But we need to know what those weaknesses were.
The building was up for its 40-year inspection, but there was also roof work being done and heavy construction nearby. One resident told reporters the pavers in the tower’s pool area had recently cracked, and that there was daily construction pounding.
An FIU professor introduced nature as a possibility.
Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment, who studies the minuscule movement of the Earth’s surface says records he recently examined for a paper showed that the land where the Champlain Towers South Condo stood had been sinking at an alarming rate, he told USA Today.
Who knows what role, if any, these elements played in creating a perfect storm of a tragedy?
Yes, investigators must get to the bottom of this horrible tragedy, with transparency.
But first, let’s ensure that the community comes to the aid of the survivors, those in grief and those who have no place to call home anymore.
Families who have relatives and acquaintances who live or work in Champlain Towers South and are unaccounted for, can call hotline 305-614-1819 to notify officials.