An insufficient number of steel reinforcements at the base of the building may have caused the catastrophic Champlain Towers South collapse, according to engineering experts who have reviewed the building site and photos of the destruction.
According to original design plans for the building from 1979, numerous steel reinforcements were called for to connect concrete slabs below the parking deck to vertical columns supporting other parts of the building further above. But initial collapse-site photos reveal less reinforcements than the plans originally called for, according to the New York Times, which reported the potential flaw.
“The bars might not be arranged like the original drawings call for,” Allyn E Kilshemier, a forensic engineering expert hired by the town of Surfside to review the disaster, told the paper.
However, he warned that any conclusions were still extremely early stage and far more investigation is warranted before ruling what caused the building to come down, killing at least 24 people with 124 more still unaccounted for.
“We have a whole bunch of issues that we think might be part of or the trigger of what happened,” he said.
Others have pointed to more recent sources of evidences.
In 2018, an engineering report on the building concluded there was “major structural damage” and “abundant cracking” in columns, beams, and walls of the parking garage at the base of the building, as well as a deficient pool deck design that led to extensive water damage under the building. A former Surfside local official reportedly told residents that after reviewing the report, the building was in “very good shape”.
“No one ever, ever, ever told us that this, that that building was in such bad shape – no one, no one,” resident Susana Alvarez told NPR. “We sat there with the town of Surfside. And the town of Surfside said to us that the building was not in bad shape. That is what they said, OK?”
Search and rescue efforts at the collapse site may soon be coming to an end. Local officials are reportedly working up plans to demolish the rest of the building as early as Sunday.
Building codes have strengthened in Florida and beyond since the 1980s, when the Champlain Towers were built, but local officials have called for new measures to prevent future disasters.
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