Residents of a South Florida condo who were forced to evacuate over concerns about the building's structural integrity will be allowed to return to retrieve essential items on Friday, officials said.
North Miami Beach officials ordered the 156-unit Crestview Towers evacuated a week ago following an audit of high-rise buildings 40 years old or older. The audit was ordered in response to the collapse of the nearby Champlain Towers South condo complex in Surfside, which killed at least 64 and left 76 people missing in the rubble.
Crestview Towers residents will be escorted by a police officer and will have 15 minutes to pick up necessary items, city officials said.
“Right now we are just, don’t know where to stay. We are with my sister, but there’s not too much space," said Vanessa Figueroa, one of the residents who was escorted in Friday.
On Thursday, city officials reaffirmed the decision to evacuate the building, saying it still hasn't been deemed safe for occupation. The city rejected conclusions from an engineer hired by the condo association that the building is structurally sound.
The city released records showing more than $500,000 in fines for illegal construction, electrical problems and 18 different fire code violations. Officials said the building must stay unoccupied until the condo association submits a new 40-year recertification report that addresses all structural and electrical issues.
The building is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the site of the condo in Surfside, which collapsed on June 24.
The audit found that Crestview Towers, which was built in 1972, had been deemed unsafe in January, officials said.
"We have everything in our cars and it’s really hard for us because we still have to work everyday, we still have to continue with our life but we are pretty much homeless,” said Figueroa.
In documents presented to the city by condo officials on Monday, surveys by an engineering firm and an electrical engineer concluded the building’s integrity has not been compromised by structural deficiencies. The problems were outlined in the 40-year certification review the association filed in January, according to city officials.
An engineer retained by the board in January had concluded the building was structurally and electrically unsafe for occupancy.
The city said it rejected the condo association's response because the documents didn't comply with the 40-year certification process or address the issues raised in January.
It is the only building so far to be evacuated since municipal officials in South Florida, and statewide, began scrutinizing older high-rises to ensure that substantial structural problems are not being ignored.