While Miami officials remain focussed on the search for dozens of people believed to be under the rubble of the residential building in South Florida, the speculations around the cause of the disaster have intensified. Referring to inputs from investigators, Miami-Dade fire rescue district chief Jason Richard told CNN that 12-storey Champlain Towers South, near southern Florida’s Atlantic coast, appears to have fallen in a “pancake collapse.”
According to experts, the building experienced a “progressive collapse” which occurs due to the failure of the primary structural element and subsequently causes failure of adjoining members. In such cases, if one floor can’t support the floors above it, they collapse and “pancake” the floors below. However, evidence of other types of collapses is reportedly also present.
Some reports suggest that the building was constructed on reclaimed wetlands and the unstable land could have caused damage to the foundations over time.
Kenneth Direktor, an attorney for the building’s condominium association, told CNN that “nothing like this was foreseeable”, but, according to a New York Times report, a consultant had sounded alarm over evidence of “major structural damage” to the concrete slab below the pool deck, almost three years before the deadly collapse.
The engineer reportedly also highlighted “abundant” cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage under the 12-storey building. “Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion,” Frank Morabito, the consultant engineer, wrote in his October 2018 report, as per NYT.
Direktor said that extensive plans were drawn up for repair work which was just about to get started. But not before the deadly collapse that trapped sleeping residents in a massive heap of debris.
Responding to the speculations over the cause of the collapse, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said, “There’s no reason for this building to go down like that unless someone literally pulls out the supports from underneath or they get washed out or there’s a sinkhole or something like that, because it just went down.
(With PTI inputs)