SURFSIDE, Fla. – As rescue efforts continue at the scene of a catastrophic condominium collapse Thursday morning in Surfside, experts stress that this is a rare event that shouldn’t spark fear about other similar buildings across South Florida.
“It’s less likely than a lightning strike,” Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett said. “It just doesn’t happen. You don’t see buildings falling down in America, and here we had a building literally falling down.”
Burkett said work was being done on the roof of the Champlain Towers South building but said that is constantly being done on buildings and he doesn’t believe that is the reason for the collapse of those condos near 88th Street and Collins Avenue.
The building, about 12 stories tall and with more than 100 condo units, is 40 years old — not nearly as old as many others in South Florida.
“We all want to know why [it collapsed],” said Peter Dyga, President and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida East Coast Chapter. “Everyone here in South Florida knows there are literally thousands of buildings this height or higher, probably millions in the world. And this type of event just does not happen.
“Buildings, regardless of how old they are, are not built or designed to collapse — unless you intend them to — due to old age or whatnot. This is really a catastrophic event.”
Burkett said he couldn’t imagine any reason for the tragedy other than if a sinkhole occurred or someone pulled the supports out of the building.
Dyga told Local 10 News there will likely end up being multiple factors, and that “it’s going to be years of discovery and learning” to determine what happened Thursday morning.
“There’s probably going to be multiple things contributing,” he said. This just does not happen without a concurrence of probably multiple things that happened to make this a tragedy. Who knows what those things will be?
“As the mayor said, you just don’t know if there’s a sinkhole or some weakness or shifting in the ground.”
Dyga, however, stressed that people should not worry that the same is going to happen to their building.
“People are going to be afraid ... and I just want to reassure people: This is an extraordinary event. You do not have any reason to worry about the building you live in,” he said.
“I know we all want answers now, but it’s just going to be a long time coming.”
Atorod Azizinamini, an engineering professor at Florida International University, said that eventually, structural engineers will likely be able to use computers to get a better idea of what happened, but he agreed that that process will take a while.
“Structural engineers usually look at all the different factors, everything that went into the design of that building,” he said. “They look at the plans. They will be taking samples of the materials. They will be looking at the history of it. They will look at the foundation.”
He added: “This is going to take some time.”