The latest on the partial building collapse near Miami

By Melissa Macaya and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:33 p.m. ET, July 2, 2021
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10:33 a.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Relocation payments claims will be made for Surfside collapse victims who are part of civil lawsuit group

From CNN’s David Shortell

Victims of the Surfside, Florida, building collapse should soon be able to claim up to $10,000 each for relocation costs, a Florida judge said Friday, outlining the first payouts available to residents who are part of an ongoing group of civil lawsuits against the Champlain Towers South condominium board. 

At a hearing in Florida’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Judge Michael Hanzman directed a receiver, who had been newly installed, to “immediately provide notice to the victims of this tragedy that there are assistance payments that are approved and available.”

Up to $2,000 will also be available for victim end-of-life costs, Hanzman said. 

Earlier in the hearing, an attorney for the condominium board said that the surviving board members — one is still unaccounted for, he said — had unanimously voted on Thursday to hand over their responsibility in managing victim payouts to a receiver, Michael Goldberg. 

“The board not only made that vote but asked me to pass along to the court and to all parties of interest the board’s commitment to support Mr. Goldberg in his mission in order to maximize his efforts for the benefit of all of the victims of this tragedy,” said Paul Singerman, the board’s attorney. 

The condominium board is insured for about $48 million across different providers. Earlier this week, one of the companies agreed to offer up its full $2 million policy to the victims. 

The early payouts could come from that first pot of insurance money, Hanzman suggested. 

Hanzman directed the receiver Friday to also investigate the value of the building’s real estate as another potential source of victim compensation.

Hanzman said he expects the cases to be wrapped up within one year and set a follow-up hearing for Wednesday. 

 

9:18 a.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Officials are considering demolishing the portion of Champlain Towers South that is still standing

From CNN's Theresa Waldrop, Madeline Holcombe and Steve Almasy

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Officials are considering demolishing the rest of the Champlain Towers South as operations continue in sections that crumbled to the ground a week ago, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday evening.

Work on the debris was halted for much of yesterday as engineers assessed the structure still standing. Levine Cava told reporters at an evening news conference the operation resumed at about 4:45 p.m. ET.

"Given our ongoing safety concerns about the integrity of the building, we're continuing to restrict access to the collapse zone," she said.

Engineers are conducting ongoing testing and evaluations of the site to expand the search into more areas as it becomes safe to do so, she said. Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky said crews were working in three of nine grids.

The mayor said officials need to make the decision about a "likely" demolition "extremely carefully and methodically," taking into consideration the impact it could have on the existing pile of rubble.

Scott Nacheman, a structure specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said they will evaluate technical data and stakeholder information and pass along the findings to officials.

He said it could be weeks before demolition occurs.

But State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said the demolition "might be sooner than we're anticipating."

He said they were bringing in heavier equipment that creates potential complications to the weight that keeps the still-standing sections in place.

8:30 a.m. ET, July 2, 2021

New 2020 summary letter from engineer to condo association highlights extensive damage to concrete 

From CNN's Alta Spells and Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman

A new letter from Morabito Consultants, the structural engineering firm hired by the Champlain Tower South condominium board to perform structural analysis on the building, to Board President Jean Wodnicki and Property Manager Scott Stewart in October 2020 provides a nine-page summary of the "Phase 11A Work performed at Champlain Towers South (CTS)" and offers additional insight into the repair work being performed on the building in the years leading up to last week's deadly collapse. 

Concrete Protection & Restoration Inc. (CPR), a company that provides commercial and industrial concrete restoration services, performed the work with assistance from Morabito Consultants — who said they reviewed and, in some cases, directed the work — in the letter that was obtained by CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."

Here are some key things included in the letter:

  • Morabito Consultants noted that full restoration and repair work on the pool corbel and wall repair work in the pool pump room could not be performed, stating in the letter that "areas of deteriorated concrete appeared to penetrate deep into wall/corbel construction" and that "aggressive excavation of concrete at the severely deteriorated pool corbel could affect the stability of the remaining adjacent concrete constructions." 
  • Another reason given for the work not being completed was that "proper ICRI (International Concrete Repair Institute) compliant repairs" required access to the inside of the pool, which, according to the document, "was to remain in service for the duration of this work."
  • All the loose concrete around the perimeter of the pool pump room that showed signs of cracking, spalling, deterioration and presented a "fall hazard" was removed by the concrete restoration firm, according to the work summary. 

In a letter from April of this year to the building residents, Wodnicki discussed the exponential deterioration of concrete that had taken place in the interim years between the initial survey done by Morabito Consultants from 2018 to 2021.

"The concrete deterioration is accelerating," wrote Wodnicki. "The observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial (2018) inspection," CNN previously reported. 

There is currently no indication that the concrete deterioration was a contributing factor to the collapse of the building last month, but it does highlight some the major repair work needed at the Champlain Tower South condominium complex. 

The firms also performed "exploratory demolition" in five areas on the first floor of the property and reported finding "some curious results as it pertained to the structural slab’s depth," in the summary document. Additional details were not provided to explain what the "curious results" were, but Morabito Consultants did request "that additional core work be performed by CPR to confirm/clear-up said results" in the letter. 

Detailed in the summary were several other projects completed by CPR during the Phase 11A work, which included removing a deteriorated stair column base and replacing the bottom with "a new HSS Steel section."

The company also conducted exploratory demolition on a hung soffit, which Morabito Consultants said requires "removal and reconstruction of soffit itself due to the conditions observed."

Remedial demolition work was also performed on the balcony soffits of 114 units within the complex. CPR removed "all ‘loose’ cracked, spalled, deteriorated, and delaminated concrete and all deteriorated, debonded, or failing stucco," from the balconies of residents.

The existence of this letter and details of the work performed were first reported by USA Today. 

CNN has reached out to Morabito Consultants and Concrete Protection & Restoration Inc. for comment but have not received a response. 

There has also been no response to attempts by CNN to contact Wodnicki, Stewart and other representatives of the Champlain Towers South condo association.  

Remember: While this document provides some additional understanding into the nature of the repair work being done prior to the collapse, there are still many unknowns surrounding the work that had yet to be completed on the building as the condo association prepared for its 40-year certification.

The full scope of the concrete work needed by Champlain Towers South remains unclear, as does the specific work contracted to Morabito Consultants and CPR and whether that work had been scheduled or was in the process of being completed.

Watch CNN's Tom Foreman detail the 2020 letter here:

7:59 a.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Other buildings in the Surfside area are being evaluated

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

The Champlain Towers North (far right) stands near its sister building, the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building, on June 29 in Surfside, Florida. 
The Champlain Towers North (far right) stands near its sister building, the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building, on June 29 in Surfside, Florida.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Teams going through the debris have still not yet found a single trigger for the collapse. And as investigators look into what caused the devastation, city officials are working to prevent damage elsewhere.

The town of Surfside has requested that all buildings over the age of 30 and more than three stories high begin to examine their structures before the 40-year building recertification program, a letter to property owners said Thursday.

Buildings will need to hire a registered structural engineer to perform an analysis of the building and are also requested to hire a registered geotechnical engineer "to perform an analysis of the foundation and subsurface soils."

Repairs to the Champlain Towers South as part of the 40-year-recertification process had just begun when the collapse happened.

Some reports have surfaced of wear and damage to the building in the years leading up to the collapse, and some officials and residents have accused the building of not doing enough to prevent the incident.

A lawsuit on behalf of a family suing the Champlain Towers South condo association alleges Morabito Consultants, which performed a structural analysis of the building in 2018, did not do enough to keep occupants safe by failing to examine the building's sub-surface foundation.

The suit was filed by attorneys for the family of Harold Rosenberg, who remains unaccounted for, and further alleges that after the 2018 report was completed the condo association and Morabito Consultants should have submitted a written report to the town of Surfside certifying that the condo was structurally safe. "The Morabito report did not certify that the building 'is structurally and electrically safe...for continued occupancy,'" the suit states.

"Instead, in an apparent attempt to wash away its failures in the wake of this tragedy, Defendant Morabito submitted this report... approximately 16 hours after the Champlain Towers South building collapsed," the suit states, referring to a document filed with the town of Surfside on June 24.

The report was conducted by engineer Frank Morabito for the building's condo association as part of the Champlain Towers South's 40-year recertification effort.

Read more here.

7:59 a.m. ET, July 2, 2021

Rescue teams have been combing through up to 16 feet of concrete as they face added challenges 

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

Search and rescue teams look for possible survivors and remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 30, in Surfside, Florida.
Search and rescue teams look for possible survivors and remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 30, in Surfside, Florida. Michael Reaves/Getty Images

With days of tireless recovery efforts behind them, search and rescue teams face added challenges with a storm in the forecast and the rest of the Surfside, Florida, condo building threatening to collapse.

Rescue teams have been combing through up to 16 feet of concrete since part of the Champlain Towers South came crashing down early last Thursday. So far, 18 people have been confirmed dead and 145 people are still unaccounted for.

But concerns about the integrity of the parts of the building still standing could add another level of difficulty to the painstaking recovery efforts.

Work was halted for much of the day Thursday as engineers assessed the structure still standing.

Access to the collapse zone was then restricted due to safety concerns, but engineers are conducting tests to expand the search into more areas as it becomes safe to do so, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday evening.

"Our firefighters looked really, really excited to get back there," she said, adding, "I am grateful to their hard work that got us back to work on the search and rescue."

Officials estimated it could be weeks before the rest of the building was demolished.

Read more about the rescue efforts here.