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Dozens of buildings in South Florida are threatened with collapse: some are already in serious trouble

A hastily abandoned house, police flashers and silence - it looks like a climatic dystopia. A house in North Miami Beach was empty in 2 hours. That is how much they gave to the tenants to collect everything they need and leave the apartments. Read more in the video "Voices of America".

Photo: Shutterstock

The evacuation of the entire Crestview Towers residential complex due to imminent collapse was the first, but not the last. In Miami-Dade County, total inspections of buildings over 6 floors and over 40 years old continue.

That is how much was the building that collapsed on the coast of the neighboring town of Surfside.

“We did not build houses 40 years ago in view of rising ocean levels and the global climate crisis. All buildings of this age are not ready for such challenges. So now we have to pay a high price for short-sightedness. And much faster than anyone thought, ”says environmental activist Dan Kipnis.

Kipnis sold his apartment on the ocean coast long ago and moved. The underground parking lot of his former home was knee-deep during the rainy and tidal season, as in the collapsed building.

“I lived in a building in Miami Beach, which had the same problem, the water was in the garage. I had to change all the piles, corroded concrete and rusty reinforcement. It cost $ 8 million 18 years ago, ”he says.

Pile corrosion was an obvious problem in the collapsed building. The tenants simply could not cope with the repair budget of $ 15 million at a time. Delay cost life. The investigation, which will definitely take several more months, will point to construction flaws and management oversight.

But there is also an underlying reason that is not new to geologists.

“South Florida is part of the sandy barrier that separates the ocean from the mainland. The sand lies in a layer of 6-7 meters on a limestone plateau. This rock is still very young, and water is passing through it, says Harold Vanless, professor of geology at the University of Miami. - The building itself stood on a sand spit. Its foundation was constantly washed by salt water. "

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Since the building was completed, the ocean level has risen by 20 cm.

“We're likely to see an 80cm rise in ocean levels by 2050,” Vanless notes. - And it will be very soon. And this is a truly catastrophic forecast, because the salt water will constantly flood the foundations of all existing buildings. "

Construction, just a few blocks from the site of the tragedy, has been paused for now. Miami engineers are looking for a way out.

“Modern building materials are very similar to those used before. But there is a big difference in how they are applied, says Fred Bletcher, professor of civil engineering. - Insulation of concrete and reinforcement is fundamentally different. It prevents salt water from doing that much damage to the building. This was certainly a great lesson for civil engineering. When something like this happens, everyone in the engineering department mobilizes to figure out how to make a difference. We cannot say that what happened will not happen again. "

Building rules tighten with every devastating hurricane and will definitely change after the Surfside tragedy.

“It’s heartbreaking, but I hope that people will not be afraid to live on the coast, especially in such beautiful skyscrapers,” says the man. - I lived here when there was still nothing, only small hotels. I've seen a lot, but never anything like it. "

While the rubble is being dismantled and the causes of the collapse are being searched, local residents are trying to convince themselves that all this is a tragic accident and a fatal coincidence.

Florida condominium residents fear their home could be next

The condo complex at the exclusive address Bal Harbor 101 in South Florida looks more like a luxury hotel than someone's home. At the entrance, residents are greeted by a marble fountain and a valet. There is a private restaurant inside. The balconies above offer panoramic ocean views, but that doesn't save residents from worrying that their home might collapse next. Yahoo!.

Following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex in nearby Surfside, residents of Bal Harbor 101 are increasingly worried that their idyllic complex could also be in jeopardy.

The inspector recently documented cracks, water ingress, chipping (concrete flaking) and corrosion - some of the problems that inspectors also noted in Champlain Towers before the collapse occurred there. Bal Harbor 101 is now in need of $ 4,5 million or more renovations.

“We get calls from everywhere, including people who live here,” said the complex's manager Igor Bond, who said he was working with “a large group of inspectors” to help convince residents that they have nothing to fear.

The collapse of the Champlain Towers has brought appalling uncertainty to residents of high-rise apartment buildings off the coast of South Florida.

At the Crestview Towers in Miami Beach, 7 miles from the Surfside collapse, residents only had a few hours to collect their belongings. A second condominium in the city also evacuated its residents last week, while a private engineering firm warned officials about dangerous conditions at a condominium in Kissimmee, south of Orlando.

"The likelihood of other buildings, such as Champlain or Crestview, is pretty high," said Michael Joseph, North Miami Beach City Commissioner.

The problem isn't just the living quarters: Miami-Dade County officials announced a complete evacuation of the old Dade County courthouse after an engineering survey identified security issues that required the upper floors to be closed immediately.

Surfside officials have requested building owners to conduct a thorough analysis of their structures. Allin Kilsheimer, a forensic engineer hired to investigate the collapse, said on Friday that he provided the city with more than two dozen guidelines on how to keep other buildings safe, starting with hiring a civil engineer and geotechnical technician to inspect each structure.

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Kilsheimer said in his note that an assessment of the foundation needs to be done to make sure the structure matches the original design. He also recommended using GPR to analyze the steel reinforcement of each building and the thickness of the concrete slabs. The note states that the concrete piles should be removed and tested for strength.

Mayor Charles Burkett sent out recommendations to oceanfront buildings east of Collins Avenue in Surfside, saying the proposals were designed to keep residents calm until a forensic investigation into the collapse was completed.

“The guidelines should apply to all buildings east of Collins Avenue, regardless of their age,” the mayor wrote.

Surfside Vice Mayor Tina Paul said "three or four" other condominiums besides those in Champlain Towers have contacted authorities over security concerns.

“People need to be guided by their judgment because there were so many problems with this building besides the construction,” Paul said. “It was in bad shape. As far as I know, the reason is not only the renovation of the building ”.

Uncertainty has devastated many families, in addition to those already affected by a catastrophic collapse, which left at least 86 people dead and dozens more missing. Joseph said Miami Beach is placing residents displaced from the Crestview complex in temporary housing until the building becomes habitable again.

City officials have not made any predictions about how long this might go on. Margarita Bulgakova, whose mother and grandmother lived in the Crestview building, said her mother was unaware of the building's renovation problems prior to the evacuation.

“We had no idea what would happen to their house,” she said. "They just moved a couple of months ago."

Residents of the Bal Harbor 101 complex said they felt anxiety, frustration and anger at how little the owners knew about the problems that arose during the building's technical recertification.

The inspector noted in a written report to the condominium board of directors on July 2 that cracked and corroded concrete was found in the pump room and on the pool deck. The inspector recorded cracks and traces of water penetration in the pool area. He wrote that the building is in good condition but needs renovation.

Although the building had to go through a recertification process when it turned 40, public records around 2018 show that the high-rise building was not confirmed to meet the requirements.

A consulting engineer told the board on July 2 that while the building is “safe for future use,” he needed additional waterproofing on the garage deck and concrete repairs at the pool site.

Amy Benichai, who bought the house and moved to Bal Harbor 101 in 2014 with her husband Jack, said they remodeled their apartment, finding it ugly, shortly after the move. The structural integrity of the building never crossed her mind, but now she believes it shouldn't have been this way.

“I love living here and I love the people in this building,” Benishai said. "But I'm worried."

Now she wonders how safe it is to stay here. Benishai, a Jewess, said that she repeated the same prayer every night.

“Lord, please let me go to sleep and be protected,” she said. "I just hope I wake up the next morning."

On the subject: The grandson received 16 calls from the phone of a couple who lived in a collapsed building in Florida

Other building owners have expressed hope that building engineers have correctly assessed the building's safety.

At a meeting of the board of directors of the condominium, the leaders of the association said that all the necessary restorations will cost about $ 4,5 million.More than half of them will go to the restoration and repainting of the garage, $ 1,3 million - to restore and repaint the building, and more than $ 930 thousand - to replace roofs.

Building officials said the delay in these repairs was due to a lack of construction inspectors and construction workers due to COVID-19. But the meeting quickly faded into chaos as condominium board members and other residents began an argument.

“The thought that I can come to you with any suggestions is nonsense,” one resident shouted.

Another resident told the board member that he should resign; some have lamented that the focus on their building has become a "public relations nightmare" that could affect property values.

The talk about repairs turned to further complaints about pipes and parking, and in the end, the board members said they were doing their best.

“We are not experts,” one of them said. "We are volunteers."

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

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