Climate scientists say Miami building collapse is a wake up call

The death toll in the collapse has risen to 18, and authorities say 147 people are still unaccounted for

Akshita Jain
Thursday 01 July 2021 10:01 BST
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Two Children Among 18 Dead In Florida Condo Collapse

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Even as it remains unclear what caused the the Miami building collapse in which the death toll has risen to 18, climate scientists have now said that it should be a “wake-up call” about the consequences of rising seas and climate change.

Two of the 18 confirmed victims were children, aged 10 and 4, authorities said. The US National Institute of Standards and Technology is expected to open an investigation into the disaster as authorities said 147 people are still unaccounted for.

Investigators have not yet concluded what caused the 40-year-old tower to collapse, but questions have been raised over the impact of climate change in destabilising the building.

Brian McNoldy, a climate and weather researcher at the University of Miami, told CNN that sea level in the Miami area has risen 7 to 8 inches since the building was built some 40 years ago.

A 2018 engineering report found major structural damage in a concrete slab on which the building’s ground-floor pool deck was resting. The report also found “abundant cracking” in the concrete columns, beams and walls in the garage.

Experts say that rising seas threaten the foundation of buildings.

Hamed Moftakhari, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Alabama, told CNN that higher sea level increases the amount of saltwater building foundations are exposed to.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has also said the climate crisis may have played a role in the tragedy that happened last week. She said: “Obviously, we don’t know fully, but we do know that the seas are rising. We know that we’re losing inches and inches of beaches, not just in Florida but all around.”

The report from Morabito Consultants in 2018 said that the main issue with the building structure was that the waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive was laid on a flat structure, which meant the water sat on the waterproofing till it evaporated.

The report said: “The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.”

Researchers have said that the 12-storey Champlain Towers South building was sinking for decades. A study conducted by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor at Florida International University in 2020, found that the building had been sinking at a rate of about two millimetres a year in the 1990s.

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