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Collapsed Florida Tower faces years of scrutiny


Rescue personnel work at the scene of the partially collapsed Champlain South Towers condominium in Surfside, near Miami Beach, Fla., In this recent undated photograph. Courtesy of Florida Task Force 3 / via REUTERS

June 29 (Reuters) – The condominium tower that collapsed near Miami in the early hours of June 24, killing at least 11 people and leaving dozens more missing in the ruins, had been the subject of a scrutiny for years of its deterioration.

Court documents, as well as emails and other documents released by officials in Surfside, Florida, show repeated concerns about structural problems in the 12-story Champlain Towers South building, built in 1981, but none have suggested he might fall.

Here is a timeline of some of the issues raised:

SEPTEMBER 2015

Resident Matilde Fainstein sued Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, owner of the building, for water damage of more than $ 15,000. The lawsuit said the association “failed to maintain the common elements and the exterior walls of the building.” It was settled in 2017, according to a court record.

OCTOBER 2018

An engineering firm hired by the condominium association to review the tower ahead of a mandatory recertification process for buildings that reach the age of 40 released a report warning of “major structural damage” to concrete under the swimming pool and the entrance which he attributed to insufficient drainage. .

“Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,” Morabito Consultants said in a report released to the city’s website.

He also found “profuse cracks” in the building’s underground parking lot and said “most of the deterioration in the concrete needs to be repaired in a timely manner.”

The company estimated the cost of necessary repairs at more than $ 9 million, according to an estimate released by the city.

NOVEMBER 2018

The city’s top construction official, Ross Prieto, met with the association’s board of directors two days after receiving a copy of the engineering report, according to an email and the minutes from the meeting published by the city.

The minutes of the meeting show that Prieto told the group that “it appears the building is in very good condition”. Waterproofing was among the issues they discussed.

The next morning, Prieto emailed City Manager Guillermo Olmedillo to tell him that the meeting “went very well” and that “all major concerns about their forty-year recertification process had been resolved. “. The city leaked a copy of the email.

Reuters was unable to reach Prieto, who left his post last year. In an interview with the Miami Herald after the collapse, he said he did not recall receiving the report.

Olmedillo said he did not recall the email or hearing any other concerns about the stability of the tower.

“The last thing I knew was that everything is fine,” Olmedillo said. He said if there had been serious issues, city officials would have raised them in weekly meetings.

JANUARY 2019

A member of the association’s board of directors, Mara Chouela, wrote to Prieto to complain that the builders erecting a new tower next door were “too close” to the property line, leaving her with “concerns about the structure of our building ”.

In an email posted by the city, she asked if officials could come check it out.

Prieto responded less than an hour later, saying “I have nothing to check”. He suggested that the association “get someone to monitor the fence, pool and adjacent areas for damage or hire a consultant to monitor those areas.”

APRIL 2021

Champlain Towers South Condominium Association president Jean Wodnicki wrote to residents warning that “the damage observable like in the garage has significantly worsened” since Morabito’s initial report in 2018, according to a letter posted online by the media.

Wodnicki wrote that the steel rebar used to reinforce the building’s concrete “rust and deteriorate below the surface” and that “concrete deterioration is accelerating”.

Fixing the problems, she said, would now cost around $ 16 million. Wodnicki did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Morabito Consultants said in a statement two days after the disaster that repairs to the roof were underway at the time of the collapse, but concrete restoration had not started.

Reporting by Brad Heath and Alexandra Ulmer Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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