Collapse Tears Away Portion of 40-Year-Old Surfside Beachfront Building

Experts say it may take months to figure out why the condo building collapsed

NBC Universal, Inc.

A portion of a 12-story beachfront condominium collapsed Thursday morning in the town of Surfside, north of Miami Beach, where at least one person died and 99 people were unaccounted for, officials said.

The Champlain Towers South Condos is located at 8777 Collins Avenue. The development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside, on the beach, and has more than 130 units. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000, an internet search showed.

The collapse, which appeared to affect one leg of the L-shaped tower, tore away walls and left a number of homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed in what looked like a giant dollhouse. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs inside. Air conditioners hung from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.

Collapsed area of the building

Authorities did not say what may have caused the collapse. On video footage captured from nearby, the center of the building appeared to fall first, with a section nearest the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.

Atorod Azizinamini, Chair of the FIU College of Engineering and Computing’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering says structural engineers will look at a number of factors to determine what caused the Champlain Towers South Condos to collapse. He said they will take samples of the steel and concrete, look for signs of corrosion, look at the foundation, and if there were any unusual events that took place before the collapse among other possible factors.

“They are going to collect all the information,” Azizinamini said. “And as the structural engineers actually in the computer can simulate. Once we have all the information, we can simulate exactly different scenarios and we can pinpoint how the collapse took place.”

Azizinamini says that process will likely take months before they come to a conclusion why the 40-year-old building collapsed. 

“I don’t think the collapse has much to do with the age of the building,” Azizinamini said. “We have many buildings that age, and they are sound. Most buildings, strength is not a factor, it’s not really what causes the collapse, usually, unless you have a bad material or construction or the building was not designed for the loads that it should or there was a mistake in the designs.” 

Work was being done on the building’s roof, but city officials say they did not see how that could have been the cause.

Surfside officials said the building’s county-mandated 40-year recertification process was ongoing. Surfside City Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said the process was believed to be proceeding without difficulty. A building inspector was on-site Wednesday.

AP and NBC 6
Contact Us