Consultant warned of 'major structural damage' before Florida building collapse

An engineering consultant who examined the Miami-area residential building that partially collapsed early Thursday had warned in 2018 of “major structural damage” that informed plans for a repair project that were scheduled to begin soon. 

A 2018 structural report that was released by the the town of Surfside, Fla., on its website late Friday night, was conducted “as required by” the Miami-Dade County code, which mandates that 40-year-old structures such as the Champlain Towers South condominium complex undergo a recertification process. 

Frank Morabito, the engineering consultant who conducted the report, found “abundant cracking and spalling of varying degrees” in the “concrete columns, beams, and walls” of the ground-floor parking garage. 

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The report also included photos of cracks in the columns and “spalling,” or concrete tumbling, that had exposed steel reinforcements on the garage deck. 

Morabito noted several other reported problems, including residents complaining of water coming through their windows and balcony doors as well as the deterioration of the concrete on several balconies. 

“Though some of this damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion,” Morabito wrote in the October 2018 report. 

“These documents will enable the Condominium Board to adequately assess the overall condition of the building, notify tenants on how they may be affected, and provide a safe and functional infrastructure for the future,” he wrote at the time. 

He added that repairs were needed for “maintaining the structural integrity” of the building, though he did not specify if he believed the structure was at risk of collapsing. 

Kenneth Direktor, a lawyer who represents the condo association, told The New York Times that repairs on the building that were suggested in the report had been set to begin soon. 

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“They were just about to get started on it,” he said. 

Morabito has declined to comment to the Times and other news outlets in recent days. 

The Times noted that the 40-year requirement for recertification for buildings was established following a previous building collapse in Miami in 1974. 

The release of the report comes as emergency responders are still conducting search and rescue efforts for the 159 people who remain unaccounted for after the early Thursday collapse of roughly half of the building’s more than 130 units. 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D) said Friday that 120 people had been accounted for following the collapse, in which at least four people have been confirmed dead. 

The federal government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology said Friday that it was sending six scientists and engineers to conduct a preliminary probe into what may have caused the collapse. 

The first lawsuit over the disaster was filed Thursday. In it, plaintiffs claimed that the collapse occurred “due to the inadequate protection of both the safety of residents and visitors to the building.”