Thursday, August 5

Death toll from Miami collapse rises to 11

The rescastistas who work for the fifth day and against the clock in the place of the partial collapse of a 12-story building of Surfside (Miami-Dade) announced this Monday the discovery of the bodies of two new victims, with what they already are once the deceased, and assured that “the search will continue.”

The number of missing now stands at 150, while 136 are found alive, said the mayor of Miami-Dade, Daniella Levine Cava, who promised to go “to the bottom” in the investigation to determine the causes of this tragedy that has affected individuals and families in various countries. .

Levine Cava, Florida Governor Ron Desantis; the lieutenant governor, Jeanette Núñez; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents the Surfside district, and leaders of the rescue teams appeared before the press after communicating the news to the families of the victims. Ray Jadallah, deputy chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Department, indicated that this afternoon the rescuers are going to change their positions on the mountain of rubble so that heavy machinery lifts a large plate of reinforced concrete in an area where several bodies have been found in these days.

For reasons not yet determined, the northeast wing of the Champlain Towers building, inaugurated in 1981 and with a total of 136 apartments, collapsed in seconds at 1.30 am (6.30 GMT) on Thursday, June 24, when its inhabitants they slept. Fifty-five apartments were turned into a pile of rubble, where today more than 240 people worked in different jobs but with one priority: finding survivors, according to Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. Burkett stated that although five days have passed since the collapse, it is still possible to find people alive, as has been demonstrated in earthquakes and other similar catastrophes.

An international tragedy

Most of the fatalities identified so far had Hispanic origin, like many of the rescuers, among which there are teams from other areas of the US and also from countries such as Mexico and Israel. Among those who died are Antonio and Gladys Lozano, a married couple of 83 and 79 years of Cuban origin, who, according to their relatives, feared being separated by death and would have been married for 59 years in July. Venezuelans Leon Oliwkowicz, 80, and Cristina Beatriz Elvira, 74, had also been married for many years. Another identified victim is Manuel LaFont, a 54-year-old separated man from Houston, Texas, who liked to play basketball with his son in a nearby park. Ana Ortiz, 46, and Luis Bermúdez, 26, were mother and son and came from Puerto Rico.

The first victim identified was 54-year-old American Stacie Dawn Fang, whose 15-year-old son, Jonah Handler, who was pulled alive from the remains of the building on the same day of the collapse, is recovering from his injuries in hospital.

The priority continues to be focused on finding survivors or remains of victims of the collapse, but indications of the possible causes of what happened are also being sought. Surfside’s mayor has tasked a team of engineers, led by veteran Allyn Kilshemer, with the task of determining how the entire northeast wing of the 12-story, 40-year-old building was able to collapse from top to bottom in a matter of seconds. Kilsheimer of KCE Structural Engineers said after visiting the site, in a statement collected by the press, that there is no visible evidence of a major structural failure.

More documents on building problems

In addition, the Surfside mayor’s office published this Monday a new batch of documents that are in its records about the damaged building, which show, like others published before, the structural and other problems it had. Among them are some from 2019 in which the Champlain Towers homeowners association expressed their concern to the municipality about the effects that the construction of a large building nearby could have on the structure. A year earlier, a report from an engineering firm had indicated that there was a “significant” structural damage to the building, due in large part to the fact that a waterproofing sheet in the pool area had been incorrectly placed, which prevented the water from draining correctly and recommended making repairs.

The Miami Herald newspaper published an information on Monday in which it is stated that a month after that report, the official then in charge of these issues at the Mayor’s Office, whom he identifies as Ross Prieto, told residents of Champlain Towers that the Building was “in a very good condition”. The Miami Herald contacted Prieto and said he did not remember what he said in a meeting with the condominium board, as recorded in a minute that the newspaper had access to.

The causes of the collapse are already being investigated by the competent authorities, but it is taken for granted that it will be a long and complex investigation and the answers will not arrive as soon as the survivors and the families of the victims would like.

And more demands on the horizon

The first demand The Champlain Towers Association was filed the same day as the collapse by a law firm for “failing to secure and safeguard lives and property.” The owner of an apartment in Champlain Towers, Manuel Drezner, and “others in the same situation” who can join the lawsuit once it is filed, claim an initial figure of $ 5 million in damages.

On Monday, two law firms, Morgan & Morgan and Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, specializing in lawsuits for falling buildings, reported that they are investigating and exploring possible legal actions regarding the collapse of the building. “We are actively investigating what caused the building to collapse, if there were warning signs beforehand that were missed or ignored, and if the system of building codes and regulations, which aims to prevent such disasters from occurring, failed.” said lawyer René Rocha.

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