My heart goes out to the people of Champlain Towers and the town of Surfside. I can’t imagine losing a family or friend in the manner that many people did when the South towers dropped. As of Monday, 28 remains have been found and identified and 117 people still missing. To avoid another catastrophe, they demolished the remaining section of the building.
Typically, Surfside is a quiet beachfront community. It’s where the locals go when headed to the beach in order to avoid the tourist laden South Beach area made famous by the TV show, “Miami Vice.”
People lost their lives, their pets and their homes. Families will continue to ache for their loved ones that are lost. Homeowners had to evacuate the remaining structure and then watch as their homes were imploded to the ground.
Ultimately someone will have to pay the price for this tragedy. Maybe more than just one someone. Perhaps the engineers that may have turned a blind eye to inaccuracies during the construction of the building. Maybe the HOA who knew the foundation near the South tower and pool had been sinking and failing for years. Maybe the construction crews who possibly cut corners on the materials they used. Maybe the City inspection’s department for not catching or not demanding shoddy work be brought up to code. Maybe everyone who had a hand in this mess needs to be held accountable.
The building was built in 1981 during an era where building codes were weak and code enforcement was lax, something that became terribly apparent when Hurricane Andrew roared through southern Miami-Dade County.
As reported by the Miami Herald Editorial Board on June 28, they wrote:
“We know that, even though entire neighborhoods were flattened, the homes that stood up the best to (Hurricane Andrew’s) Category 5 storm’s winds turned out to be the ones where developers spent more money to build stronger homes. And we know that the hardening of the building code, triggered by Andrew’s damage, was long overdue and likely has saved lives in the decades since. So, when we look at the images of the destruction in Surfside, we’d be fools not to wonder whether slipshod construction and look-the-other-way enforcement of that era played a part. Could faulty construction have allowed salt water and sea spray to penetrate the concrete enough to doom the building? If that happened, who should have noticed? What should have been done?”
And the fall-out continues. As reported in the news, several nearby buildings have been evacuated. More people left temporarily homeless as engineers and inspectors check the integrity of these structures in the attempts to avoid another building collapse.
Miami in the 1980s was a cesspool of drugs and corruption at every level. The Medellin drug cartel made Miami the Drug Capitol of the World. It was a time when even cops could be bought as the infamous Miami River Cops case showed. It was a time when contractors would promise to use certain building materials, purchase cheaper ones, pocket the profits and pay-off the inspectors to look the other way.
Is that what happened here? I’m willing to bet it was.
It was only after Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, devastated a vast portion of South Dade County and people started suing Arvida Homes and other developers for crappy construction did the state tighten their building codes and inspection logs.
But by then the Surfside building had already been sinking.
According to a USA today article the building had been sinking at an alarming rate since the 1990s, according to a study in 2020 by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University.
The HOA knew there was massive structural defects found in 2018 and were in the process of gathering assessment fees from condo owners beginning July 1, of this year, but that would prove to be too late.
If people would have done their jobs, the South towers and the people and pets in it, would still be standing today.
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” –John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent
- Patty Leon