The Florida apartment building that partially collapsed on Thursday has been reportedly sinking for decades and was undergoing a structural inspection, according to officials and a research study.
The twelve-story beachfront condo in Miami-Dade County was built in 1981 and has been sinking into the ground at a rate of 2 millimeters a year since the 1990s according to a 2020 study conducted by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor at Florida International University.
“I looked at it this morning and said, ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that,” Wdowinski told USA Today on Thursday.
Wdowinski’s research focused heavily on certain parts of Miami in an attempt to see which areas were more likely to be affected by sea-level rising and flooding.
“We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement,” Wdowinski explained.
Surfside town officials said on Thursday that the high-rise had been undergoing a county-mandated forty-year recertification process, which involves electrical and structural inspections.
City Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told Miami TV station WPLG that the process was believed to be proceeding without issues — and that a building inspector may have been on-site as recently as Wednesday.
“I want to know why this happened,” Salzhauer said, “That’s really the only question. … And can it happen again? Are any other of our buildings in town in jeopardy?”
A video on Twitter circulated captured the tragic scenes as livelihood possessions of residents reduced to rubble.
Over ninety-nine people have been left unaccounted for.
“My heart goes out to the victims and families of this terrible tragedy. A year ago it was deemed unstable – why on earth were the residents still living there?” one person shared on Twitter. Another person said, “The building was determined to be unstable last year. Someone’s in big trouble then, as there shouldn’t have been ANYone in that building, let alone sleeping peacefully!”
The reason for the tragic partial collapse of the building is still unclear and authorities are still unsure how many people were in the building when it collapsed, so the death toll, although only one person has been pronounced dead at the moment, is likely to rise.
Our hearts go out to the people suffering right now.