NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Residents of a Miami-area skyscraper loaded clothes and valuables into suitcases, laundry baskets and rail cars and took them to cars in waiting after being forced to evacuate the building when it turned out to be dangerous in a criticism caused by the fatal collapse of a building a few miles away.
An audit caused by the collapse of Champlain Towers South near Surfside found that the 156 Crestview Towers units in North Miami Beach, about five miles apart, were found to be structurally and electrically unsafe in January, the city said in a statement. Press release. On Friday afternoon, law enforcement cordoned off the area and went door to door in the building, telling residents they had to leave the 49-year-old structure.
Harold Dauphin was on his way home after picking up his son from camp on Friday when he noticed a helicopter buzzing around his apartment and an increased police presence. He wondered if there had been a shooting nearby, but then returned home to find his apartment building was being evacuated.
“They said the building was not safe to live in and it was an immediate evacuation,” Dauphin said, speaking outside after leaving. He and his son live on the second floor. He said he had never heard of the problems mentioned by the city in its press release. He grabbed what he could – clothes, his work uniform, and a few electronics – and the two left.
“It’s unfortunate, but I understand. Knowing what happened at Surfside, you know, that’s understandable, ”he said.
It is the first building to be evacuated since municipal authorities in South Florida and statewide began examining older skyscrapers following the Surfside collapse to ensure that Important structural issues are not ignored.
Meanwhile, authorities in Surfside said four other bodies were found in the rubble, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, bringing the confirmed death toll to 22.
But there was also a relief. Further examination of the missing persons list reduced the number from 145 to 126 after duplicate names were removed and some missing residents were found unharmed, officials said.
“So this is very, very good news,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. She said the numbers are expected to continue to change as detectives continually review the list and check the reports.
Finding the girl’s remains was particularly difficult for rescuers, Levine Cava said.
“It was really different and more difficult for our first responders. These men and women pay a huge human price every day, and I ask you all to keep them in your thoughts and prayers, ”she said at a press conference.
The mayor also said he signed an interim order to demolish the remaining part of the building once engineers approve it. She said the order has been signed now so the demolition can proceed quickly once the date is set. It will likely be weeks before demolition is scheduled, officials said.
No one has been rescued since the first hours following the June 24 collapse. The authorities are also preparing in case Hurricane Elsa – now in the eastern Caribbean – brings strong winds to southern Florida. Research efforts have already been interrupted briefly on several occasions due to bad weather.
“We’re going to try to go as long as possible, but you can see from different periods of bad weather that we’ve had, we’ve stopped,” said Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Cominsky.
Officials did not immediately release details of the structural issues that prompted Friday’s evacuation in North Miami Beach, but Crestview Towers had reported millions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Irma of 2017.
A letter posted less than two weeks ago on the community’s website said repairs were underway or expected to start on the building soon, after repeated delays. Plans included installing a new roof, replacing a 40-plus-year-old generator, modifying the entire building’s lighting system, and more.
“Last year was a different year due to the pandemic and a lot of things were postponed for countless reasons, but this year we started to work hard,” the letter said.
The building’s condominium association could not be immediately reached to comment on the delay between Friday’s evacuation and the January recertification report which revealed unsafe conditions.
Darwin Reyes said he lived in the building during Hurricane Irma and part of the balcony above his fell onto his balcony during the storm. He listed several other complaints about the building, including elevators that often didn’t work and pipes that didn’t drain well. He said he planned to move after living there for five years.
Reyes had just woken up from a nap on Friday as he prepared for a night shift at a hotel where he worked. He checked his Instagram feed and saw that a notice had just been posted indicating that his building was being evacuated. He looked down the hall and saw people running back and forth, phones to their ears, with bags and suitcases.
He and his wife packed what they could into several suitcases. She got in the elevator and he took the stairs to the 9th floor. In the rush, one of their suitcases disappeared, and as night fell on Friday, they were still trying to locate it.
“Right now I’m officially homeless,” he said, adding that he would likely go to stay with a relative.
Associated Press reporters Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Fla., Terry Spencer in Surfside, Fla., Mike Schneider in Orlando, Fla., And Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.