Residents of a Miami-area high-rise loaded clothes and valuables into suitcases, laundry baskets and wagons and wheeled them to waiting cars after they were forced to evacuate the building when it was found to be unsafe in a review prompted by the deadly collapse of a building just a few kilometres away.
An audit prompted by the collapse of Champlain Towers South in nearby Surfside found that the 156-unit Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach, about 8 kilometres away, had been deemed structurally and electrically unsafe in January, the city said in a news release. Law enforcement authorities cordoned off the area and went door-to-door in the apartment building, telling residents they had to leave the 49-year-old structure.
“They said the building is unsafe to live and it’s an immediate evacuation,” Resident Harold Dauphin said, speaking outside after he’d cleared out. He and his son live on the second floor. He said he hadn’t previously heard anything about the problems that the city mentioned in their news release. He grabbed what he could — clothes, his work uniform and some electronic devices — and the two left.
Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look for survivors at the 12-storey oceanfront condo.Credit:
“It’s unfortunate, but I understand. Knowing what happened in Surfside, you know, it’s understandable,” he said.
It is the first building to be evacuated since municipal officials in South Florida, and statewide, began scrutinising older high-rises in the wake of the Surfside collapse to ensure that substantial structural problems are not being ignored.
Authorities in Surfside said four more bodies had been found in the rubble, including the seven-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, bringing the confirmed death toll to 22.
But there was also relief. Closer inspection of the missing persons list reduced the number from 145 to 126 after duplicate names were eliminated and some residents reported missing turned up safe, officials said.
“So this is very, very good news,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. She said the numbers were expected to keep changing because detectives are continually reviewing the list and verifying reports.
The mayor also said she signed an emergency order to demolish the remaining part of the building once engineers have signed off on it. ’s lighting system, and more.
“Last year has been a different year due to the pandemic and many things have been postponed for countless reasons, but this year we have started to work hard,” the letter said.
The building’s condo association could not be immediately reached for comment on the delay between Friday’s evacuation and the January recertification report that revealed unsafe conditions.
Darwin Reyes said he lived in the building during Hurricane Irma and a chunk of the balcony above his fell onto his balcony during the storm. He listed multiple other complaints about the building, including elevators that often didn’t work and pipes that didn’t drain well. He said he had been planning to move after living there for five years.
On Friday, Reyes had just woken up from a nap as he prepared for a night shift at a hotel he works at. He checked his Instagram feed and saw that a notice had just been posted that said his building was being evacuated. He looked into the hallway and saw people scurrying back and forth, phones to their ears, with bags and suitcases.
He and his wife packed what they could into multiple suitcases. She went down in the elevator, and he took the stairs from the 9th floor. In the scramble, one of their suitcases went missing, and as darkness fell Friday they were still trying to locate it.
“Right now I’m officially homeless,” he said, adding that he would probably go stay with a relative.
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