At 1.15am on Thursday morning, Sara Nir heard a roar and saw that part of the ground floor parking lot and the pool deck had collapsed into the underground garage. She and two of her children who were in her Champlain Towers apartment in Miami fled the building and managed to survive the catastrophe. Now Sara is a witness of what can be a vital piece to understand the causes of the collapse.

The swimming pool. The whole country points to that rectangle that used to be of blue water, where the families of the Surfside complex used to enjoy a while of rest in sunny Miami. A report had already warned three years ago that the non-slip tile deck that surrounded the pool was poorly built, did not drain well, leaked water into the garage below and that this had caused “structural damage” to the building that ended up collapsing in the early morning. last Thursday.

But now a witness has appeared that deepens that theory because watched the pool and parking lot below collapse seconds before the collapse.

The newspaper The Washington Post published this Wednesday a detailed analysis of photos of the ruins and the video of the fall of the south tower of the complex. He spoke with dozens of experts and also obtained the account of Sara, a resident of the place.

The swimming pool. The whole country points to that rectangle that once was made of blue water. AFP photo

The tragedy has so far caused 18 deaths – two under the age of 4 and 10 – and more than a hundred missing, including 9 Argentines. Rescue efforts continue 24 hours without pause, but progress slowly for the tight arrangement of rubble, due to the risk of explosions and rain. Yesterday another of the deceased was identified, Hilda Noriega, a 92-year-old woman who planned to move soon from her 6th floor apartment.

While the pain of the relatives grows, Questions continue about the causes of the tragedy. It emerged on Saturday that in 2018, a report by engineer Frank Morabito for Surfside County had warned of “severe structural damage” in the pool area. He pointed out that the deck, covered with non-slip tiles, was built flat and that is why, in addition to huge cement beds, the water did not drain well. In addition, due to waterproofing failures, the liquid leaked into the concrete slab and into the garage below, damaging the columns.

The testimonials

Jean Wodnicki, the president of the condo told the owners in April of this year that the damage to the garage had “significantly worsened”. The building, built in 1981, was in a process of recertification, a procedure that is done every 40 years. But repairs were being made to the roof, not the sink or the parking lot.

It is possible that the investigation into the collapse will take many months and, as highlighted by three engineers consulted days ago by Clarion, it may not be the product of a single cause. But Allyn E. Kilsheimer, a seasoned engineer hired by Surfside to investigate the collapse, told the Post that That sink failure could have triggered a broader catastrophe.

“There is a possibility that part of the pool area fell first and then drag the center of the building with her, and that made it collapse, ”Kilsheimer said. “And then once the center of the building collapsed, number two, then the rest of the building didn’t know how to stand up and number three fell as well.”

General view of the Miami building.  AFP photo

General view of the Miami building. AFP photo

Most of the dozen experts interviewed for the Post article, including nine structural engineers, agreed that the collapse appeared to have originated by a fault in the lower levels of the building or in the parking lot below him. In images of the rubble, four experts saw signs of a fault in which concrete slabs that make up the floors of a building are dislodged from the supporting columns of the structure.

The experts pointed out that this catastrophe is extraordinary for a 40-year-old building and amazes the engineers. Joe DiPompeo, president of the Institute of Structural Engineering at the American Society of Civil Engineers said that “there has to be a very specific sequence of events that somehow evaded all security devices of the code and everything else. “

Sara Nir, a resident of the complex, told the Post that shortly before 1 am, she noticed loud “knocking” noises that she assumed were caused by construction work. Around 1:14 he heard a noise that he thought it sounded like a crashing wall, and left his apartment, which is at ground level, to complain to a security guard in the lobby.

She estimated that about a minute later, while in the lobby, she heard a loud explosion-like noise and saw that part of the parking lot at surface level and the pool deck had collapsed in the underground parking lot. She and two of her children who were home at the time fled the building.

Nir’s son called 911 at 1:19 a.m., a record that remained on his phone and, a minute later, an employee of Miami-Dade County Fire and Rescue asked for a cell phone to respond to an alarm in the building, as the audio shows. According to additional emergency audio, the building collapsed between 1:24 and 1:25 a.m. while Vehicle 76 was on its way.

Nir’s account matches that of Mike Stratton, to the Miami Herald, who said he was talking to his wife Cassie that night and she told him she could see a hole in the pool area from the balcony of his apartment on the fourth floor. While they were talking, the line was cut and she is among the missing.

“If these two accounts are really indications that the pool deck area collapsed first, then the deterioration from seepage and subsequent slab damage could be consistent with this”Said engineer Glenn Bell, director of Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures, who cautioned against jumping to conclusions and that the investigation would take time.

Engineer Kilsheimer said corrosion caused by water entering the slab could have caused its collapse. “If a sufficient part of the reinforcing steel it was 100 percent rusty, that could be something that makes it possible, “he said.

Investigators will also examine the ground under the building to see if a foundation collapse or failure could have caused the disaster. An academic study published last year revealed that the building seemed to have sunk millimeters during the 1990s. It also looks for substandard materials or poor workmanship during the construction of the building.