Rescue workers get ready for another shift working on the partially collapsed building in Surfside, Florida, on Friday. Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
June 26 (UPI) — Rescue operations continued through the night into Saturday to search for survivors in the Surfside condo collapse with cautious optimism.
Crews have been searching through the rubble since the sudden collapse Thursday of the 12-story Champlain Towers in Surfside, about 3 miles north of Miami Beach. The death toll rose to four early Friday with about 159 people unaccounted for as crew continue to search.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told CNN Saturday local and state officials are hoping for additional rescues but “we are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we are seeing.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett added that the building was undergoing roof work, but it’s unknown whether that was a factor in the collapse.
“This is a horrific catastrophe,” Burkett told CNN. “In the United States, buildings just don’t fall down.”
Investigation continues into the cause of the collapse.
The town’s building official, James “Jim” McGuinness, said at an emergency meeting with Surfside 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.
McGuinness added that a geotechnical profile below ground is not required in the 40-year recertification when asked about possibility of a sink hole at the meeting.
Though it’s unknown whether or not there was a sink hole, “it’s not just what’s happening above ground, it’s what’s happening below ground that counts,” McGuinness said.
Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said that the requirements for the recertification process need to increase, including the time frame and a geotechnical profile below ground.
The condo association was getting ready to make updates and repairs on the building, which has deteriorated over the years leading to extensive inspections, ABC News reported.
The roof was undergoing work and the construction projects nearby led to scrutiny, the broadcaster reported.
Kenneth Direktor, 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.
Direktor added that when 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.