The US authorities continued this Saturday the so far unsuccessful search for the 159 disappeared left by the partial collapse of a building in Florida, which had “significant structural damage,” according to a 2018 report.
At least four people died after the 12-story oceanfront building in Surfside, near Miami Beach, collapsed while residents slept inside it early Thursday morning.
Of the total disappeared, almost a third are foreigners. Nine Argentines, three Uruguayans, six Paraguayans – among whom is the sister of the first lady of Paraguay – and at least four Canadians, according to authorities.
Among the tangles of beams and metal, piles of rubble, smells of charred rubber and plastic, firefighters, canine units and cranes search under the ruins of the Champlain Towers.
Increasingly frustrated families are growing impatient and fear that the high number of missing will drive up the death toll.
– 72 hours –
“We remain hopeful. We continue looking for survivors among the rubble, it is our priority and our teams have not stopped ”the work, said this Saturday the mayor of the county of Miami-Dade, Daniella Levine Cava, at a press conference.
However, some relatives of the victims criticize the rescue operations and begin to lose hope.
“Not a single lifeguard has tried to remove the rubble, little by little, even by hand, without a machine, to evacuate people,” Maurice Wachsmann told . on Friday.
His best friend and another acquaintance of his are missing.
“My mother’s friend is there (under the rubble). We want to be hopeful, but we have to be realistic. The next step is to be with the families and find out why this happened, ”said Mark, 55, without giving his last name.
Rescue operations are particularly difficult due to a fire broke out at the site that firefighters are trying to control.
“Our experience is that, for the first 72 hours, there is a good chance that people are still alive in there,” said the county firefighter. Miami-Dade, Danny Cardeso, to CBS.
Rescuers, hearing noises emanating from the rubble but are not sure they are human, tunnelled under the building’s flooded parking lot to try to reach possible survivors.
Near the scene of the catastrophe, a monument with candles, flowers and some 40 photos of the disappeared was erected.
“We have a friend who was able to escape the building with her husband,” Gina Berlin, 54, who has lived in the area since 1992, told . on Saturday. “I am still in shock and I have come to pray for the disappeared.”
– Structural damage –
Questions about the causes of the collapse have multiplied in recent days and the investigation will likely last for months.
However, a 2018 report on the condition of the building revealed “significant structural damage” and “cracks” in the basement, according to documents released Friday night by the city of Surfside, where the tragedy occurred.
“The waterproofing under the edge of the pool and the access road for vehicles (…) has exceeded its useful life and therefore must be completely removed and replaced,” said expert Frank Morabito, head of Morabito Consultores, in the report.
“Faulty waterproofing causes significant structural damage to the structural concrete slab below these areas,” the document added.
“If the waterproofing is not replaced in the near future, the degree of deterioration of the concrete will expand exponentially,” says the study, which does not mention the risk of collapse although it calls for repairs to maintain “structural integrity.”
Until now, attention had focused especially on a 2020 report that revealed that the building had suffered a subsidence at a rate of about 2 millimeters per year between 1993 and 1999.
However, Shimon Wdowinski, one of the authors of the study and a professor at Florida International University (FIU), told CNN that he did not know “if the collapse was foreseeable.”