Neighboring buildings worry about safety after Fla. condo collapse

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A sister building in the same complex as the collapsed Florida condo has new cracks in its garage – but experts said residents are safe, even as a voluntary evacuation is in effect.

Photos taken by a resident of Champlain Towers East show a large chunk of stone crumpled off a pillar in the garage – damage that the resident told local news outlets wasn’t visible until after Champlain Towers South collapsed on Thursday.

“I’m afraid that there could be some issue in our building that could result in what we saw in Champlain Towers South,” resident Robert Lisman told Local 10 in an interview.

But structural engineer Allyn Kilsheimer found that damage was of no immediate concern, saying that both sister buildings to the collapsed condo showed “no visible evidence of any major structural concerns,” NBC Miami reported on Monday.

Only two people have asked to be relocated from the building, the TV station said.

Rescue and recovery efforts continue at the 12-story South building, where 11 have been confirmed dead and 150 were still missing as of Monday night. But while emergency crews held out hope of rescuing survivors from air pockets in the tons of rubble and debris, local officials and high-rise residents have feared a repeat at other buildings in the coastal region.

Of particular focus are the East and North towers in the same complex in Surfside. The North and South towers were built in 1981, with the East tower constructed 13 years later, NBC stated.

The town requires buildings to be recertified every 40 years – a process that had the South tower ready to take on several large scale reconstruction projects, Local 10 reported.

During an emergency meeting of the town commission on Friday, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said there should have been red flags that the building was a danger on the verge of catastrophe.

“This building had serious, serious issues,” Burkett told Local 10. “There had to be signs that there were problems at that building well before yesterday.”

But what has come to light in the days since the tragedy is that there were signs that the building infrastructure was failing.

A letter from the president of the South building’s condo association president in April talked about $15 million worth of construction projects that would be funded through assessments, The Wall Street Journal found.

The letter warned of concrete damage and under-the-surface rust, as well as extensive roof damage.

“A lot of this work could have been done or planned for in years gone by,” the letter from Jean Wodnicki stated. “But this is where we are now.”

The 40-year recertification requirement may be adjusted after the South tower collapse, reports said.

James McGuinness, a top building official, said at the Friday meeting that the collapse could forever change building requirements in Surfside, Local 10 said.

“As Hurricane Andrew changed the Florida building codes forever, so this terrible tragedy, which is a national tragedy, is going to change the building codes as they relate to certification and all existing buildings,” McGuinness said.

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