(CNN) — Days have passed since the tragedy in Surfside, Miami, and search and rescue efforts continue in the partially collapsed building. At the same time, questions arise about the future of the tower and other constructions in the area.
In the early morning hours of Thursday, June 24, part of the Champlain Towers South tower collapsed, leaving at least 16 people dead and at least 147 missing so far.
This building was showing signs of collapse in the 1990s, according to a study. Another study, from 2018, warned of damage to the structure.
Champlain Towers South, a 136-apartment condo tower, was built in 1981, the same year as its twin, Champlain Towers North. A third tower, the Champlain Towers East, was erected in 1994. They are all in the same area, a few meters apart.
What could happen to the Champlain Towers South tower that partially collapsed? And what could be the fate of the other East and North towers?
The collapsed building in Miami
Investigations into the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South are still ongoing, so the reason that caused the collapse is still unknown.
However, reports from engineering, studies, residents and experts have shed light on the integrity of the structure and whether or not it could be rebuilt.
“The balconies (of the structure that is still standing) have a process of accumulated corrosion damage. So the fixing process is long, tedious. The economic, financial and other strategic evaluation will determine whether it is convenient to fix or repair the standing structure or directly demolish it, “said Martín Polimeni, professor of the master’s degree in Construction and Structures at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Buenos Aires , in an interview with CNN.
Polimeni’s estimate, with the information available so far, is that the remainder of the building in Miami will be demolished.
«I estimate that the latter will be the case (that is, the demolition directly). It is an estimate, it is a possibility because there are other extra-technical questions that may be how the place will have been, doubts. Fixing can always be done; whether it is convenient or not will depend on factors that are not only involved in structural engineering, “added the expert.
Possible irreplaceable damages
Federico Núñez, director of the Master’s program in Civil Engineering at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Colombia, commented that the event that took place in the area was like a “minisismo” at the time the building partially collapsed in Miami, since the energy it was distributed when the impact occurred.
The part of Champlain Towers South that did not collapse “moved in a brutal way (because of Minisism). It can be understood that there was additional damage to any damage that the structure had accumulated during the 40 years of service (since 1981) and it is possible that there are structural damages that are irreplaceable, irreparable, irreparable, “said Núñez in an interview with CNN.
Although post-collapse pathology studies to be carried out by US institutions have to be awaited, the expert opined that a demolition is very likely to take place.
As the structure that was left standing was attached to the part that collapsed, “I think it is very possible that they will have to be demolished. Why? Because of its proximity, because it is made of the same material with which the collapsed part was built, ”he explained.
“In particular that part of the city has a whole phenomenon of vulnerability that has already presented a collapse, so it is very highly feasible that this structure could be demolished to make way for a new construction project,” added Núñez.
Effects for nearby buildings
The expert from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana mentioned that, after the “minisism” caused by the collapse, a deep structural review has to be made both of the part that is still standing and of the buildings that are in the area, including Champlain Towers East and North.
“For neighboring buildings that were in the same block, that were in front of the tower or diagonally to the tower, a structural review must also be carried out because it is not clear what could have happened.
“I would think that, due to the width of the streets that exist in Miami, the energy of the impact may have dissipated on the ground and before reaching the towers, but it will always be better to check,” explained Núñez.
Possible issue for Champlain Towers North
On Sunday, Eliana Salzhauer, one of the three Surfside city commissioners, said they have yet to find a cause for concern for the Champlain East and North towers.
“We have not found an immediate life safety problem that could cause people to panic and run for their lives, or we would have already been evacuated,” Salzhauer said. “We don’t want this to happen again.”
However, Surfside, Florida Mayor Charles Burkett said Monday that there is “probable cause” to believe that there could be a problem in the sister building Champlain Towers North after the collapse of Champlain Towers South.
Burkett told CNN that the two buildings are very similar and were built around the same time by the same contractor.
“I think there is probable cause to believe that we might have a problem in the sister building because it is the same design, the same developer and all the fingerprints are there,” he said.
Despite the above, the Mayor of Surfside added that he does not believe there is such a problem in the third building, Champlain Towers East, because it was built later.
Safety is paramount after Miami building collapse
People who live in Champlain Towers North have been given the option to leave. Officials have not issued a mandatory evacuation at this time.
But when asked if he would spend the night in the Champlain Towers North condos, Mayor Charles Burkett replied, “I wouldn’t sleep there.”
For this reason, Núñez emphasized that security is the primary issue at this time.
“Security is at least what can be debated at the moment. The structures that were close to this collapse should be reviewed to identify possible cracks, possible anomalous elements that were not present before the collapse of the tower, and this in order to make decisions about possible reinforcements and to guarantee the safety of the people. that inhabit, ”he explained.