The Financial Express

Florida building collapse: Fifth body found in survivor hunt

Florida building collapse: Fifth body found in survivor hunt

The death toll has risen to five after the collapse of an apartment block in Florida, authorities say.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the number unaccounted for has now dropped to 156, with three more of the recovered bodies identified.

"Our top priority continues to be search and rescue and saving any lives that we can," she told reporters.

Part of the building collapsed early in the morning on Thursday while many residents slept.

The cause of the collapse remains unclear.

But an engineer's report from 2018 was made public on Saturday, which highlighted "a major error" in the original design of the seafront Champlain Towers in the town of Surfside, near Miami. It said the fault prevented water draining away from the base of the building.

Teams have been using machines, drones and specially trained dogs in their efforts to find survivors. Rescue efforts were briefly hampered on Saturday after a fire broke out underneath the rubble.

Ms Levine Cava said the death toll increased after emergency workers found a body in the rubble on Saturday. Four of the five confirmed fatalities have been identified - they include the mother of a boy who was pulled alive from the rubble on Thursday.

The Miami-Dade mayor said the search efforts had also uncovered some human remains, but warned that the process of identifying these victims was "very difficult" and would rely on DNA testing.

The missing include people from Israel and Latin America, according to reports. Paraguay's foreign ministry said six of its nationals had been registered as missing, including the sister of the country's first lady.

Local officials have provided families with hotel rooms and food as they wait for news about their loved ones.

What issues did the 2018 report raise?

The engineer, Frank Morabito, said the lack of proper drainage was "a systemic issue" that stemmed from a flaw "in the development of the original contract documents".

He flagged what he called "major structural damage" to the concrete platform beneath the swimming pool deck.

A man prays in front of a missing persons wall near a collapsed apartment block in Miami, Florida, June 2021

"The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas," he wrote. "Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."

The engineer also referred to "abundant cracking… of columns, beams and walls" in the garage.

His report didn't suggest the 40-year-old building was at any imminent risk of collapse but he urged that the concrete repairs be carried out in "a timely fashion".

It is unclear if the problems highlighted contributed to the structural failure. Champlain Towers had been due to undergo a multi-million dollar refurbishment this year.

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