“Very large” fire complicates rescue efforts in collapsed building in Miami-Dade

Search efforts in the Surfside area, where a residential building collapsed on Thursday, has been complicated by a fire.

Photo: Joe Raedle / .

MIAMI – Rescuers continue to work Saturday on an apartment building collapse in Surfside, Florida, as a “large” fire inside the rubble is making it difficult to search for survivors, authorities said.

“We have found a very large fire and we are trying to put it out to continue with the search, the fire is still alive,” said Daniella Levine Cava, mayor of Miami-Dade County, at a press conference today.

According to the councilor, “the numbers” of fatalities and missing persons have not changed so far: 4 and 159, respectively, although the focus today remains the same, the search for survivors.

At the press conference, where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was also present, it was reported that rescue crews “have not stopped removing debris to search for people” throughout the night.

“This has been gigantic for us, we are moving in rescue operations to continue with the search,” said the mayor and said that modern technology such as infrared lights and sound detection devices are used to locate survivors.

It was also confirmed that the workers made a drainage ditch in the middle of the mountain of concrete rubble and iron, to “isolate the smoke and fire,” said the mayor.

Aerial views of local television media this morning show two powerful jets of water aimed at the debris left by the collapse, which occurred last Thursday in a wing of the Champlain Towers apartment building.

The property, with 12 floors and 136 apartments and located on the beachfront, was inaugurated in 1981 and has just passed a mandatory inspection for its 40 years.

In total, 55 apartments in the building collapsed while people slept.

Ongoing investigations

Meanwhile, relatives of the disappeared who are housed in a hotel in north Miami Beach, a few blocks away from the incident, watch the debris removal work on television, in which they can see how a huge excavator tears off pieces of structure from the mountain of dough.

On the third day of the search, the chances of finding people alive are diminishing, although, according to the authorities, “there is still hope.”

“The approach has not changed at all, we are looking for living people, the search has not stopped all night,” said Levine Cava, while, next to him, the state governor mentioned “a very difficult and chaotic situation” for rescuers.

The councilor indicated that there are federal investigations underway to determine the causes of the collapse, which occurred in a matter of seconds and was captured by a security camera.

A part of this building collapsed like a house of cards, where dozens of people were supposedly, many from Latin American countries on vacation.

Also, the county is going to make sure all the buildings are secure “and that this doesn’t happen again,” Levine Cava said.

“I ordered that all buildings with 5 floors or more be reviewed for certification and we will review everything within 30 days,” announced the mayor.

Report alerted of Construction “serious error” in the building

Several local media echo this Saturday of a 2018 inspection report of the damaged building, where they realize that a “serious mistake” of construction in the pool area, according to the Miami Herald.

In the report on the Champlain Towers South condominium, located in the city of Surfside, adjacent to Miami Beach, an engineer pointed out a “major error” that dates back to the origin of the building, where the lack of adequate drainage in the terrace of the pool had caused “significant structural damage,” the newspaper reported.

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