Today is Day Five after the collapse of the Champlain Towers condo building in Miami, and the official death count is now at 10.
But 151 people remain unaccounted for, and given that the collapse happened in the middle of the night, the chances that any significant number of those people were away from their units — rather than at home in their beds — is almost gone.
Rescue crews continue around-the-clock efforts to search for victims in the very hazardous conditions of the building’s rubble, but the hope for finding living persons is quietly fading. But local officials insist they aren’t switching to “recovery” mode just yet.
On Sunday, families got their first look at the rescue effort in person. They shouted the names of their loved ones, their desperate cries momentarily breaking the solemn silence of the search.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief of Operations Ray Jadallah on Monday said the visit also answered questions for some families who worried the pace of the search effort was too slow. He pointed out the complexity of the process and the need for safety. He said families saw a firefighter slip 25 feet down a pile of rubble.
Jadallah stressed that the effort is not shifting into recovery mode. “We’re just not there yet,” he said.
On Sunday, a crew of engineering and rescue experts from the Israeli Defense Forces arrived to lend their expertise in such situations to the efforts.
Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai landed in Florida Sunday. During his trip, he will meet with local Jewish community leaders and Miami-Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
Upon his return to Israel, Shai will present Prime Minister Naftali Bennett plans for assistance to the Jewish community.
“We will do whatever we can to help the Americans in any way they deem fit,” Shai told The Jerusalem Post en route to Miami. “America can learn from Israeli experience. Unfortunately, we have too much experience with disasters.”
Shai said his visit would send a powerful message about the relationship between Israel and American Jewry being a two-way street. He said this was very important to the prime minister.
No word yet from Reps. Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar as to when a team of Palestinian experts will arrive to help with the disaster.
A month after an engineer’s report flagged “major structural damage” at Champlain Towers South, the chief building official for the town of Surfside told residents the condominium was “in very good shape,” according to minutes from a November 2018 board meeting obtained by the Miami Herald.
Ross Prieto, who left the post last year, had reviewed the engineer’s report, the minutes say. Records show condo board member Mara Chouela forwarded a copy to him two days earlier.
No one wants to own up to having been warned about the problems highlighted in the report — which did not suggest the building was at risk of collapsing — but it appears that what happened five days ago began with the very problem which the engineers pointed out.
Nothing in Morabito’s nine-page, preliminary report in 2018 indicated the building was at risk of collapse. But the report said the concrete slabs on the garage entrance and under the pool deck had deteriorated and that lack of proper drainage had caused “major structural damage.”Six engineering experts interviewed by the Miami Herald on Saturday said that, based on the publicly available evidence, it appeared that a structural column or concrete slab beneath the pool deck likely gave way first on Thursday, causing the deck to collapse into the garage below. That may have formed a crater beneath the bulky midsection of the tower, which then caved in on itself, the experts said.
Residents complain that there was never a sense of urgency expressed by anyone with regard to the need to address the problems identified in the Morabito Report. The price tag was substantial, and as a resident-owned condominium building, it would have been up to the residents to fund those repairs.
“Not once did Morabito share with us any sense of urgency, at least not the residents,” Alvarez said, who lived on the 10th floor. “He never said the building was falling apart. He said the repairs were to bring the building up to today’s standards of beauty.”
An estimate from Morabito at the time called for about $9 million in structural work. When he told residents, “of course everybody freaked,” Alvarez said. The average assessment for owners in the 136-unit building was about $100,000 apiece, she said.
Many questions regarding other similar buildings in the area are now going to demand immediate answers, and steps are going to need to be taken to avoid another similar collapse as the buildings in this area continue to age.