PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – The desperate rescue effort continues with the Champlain Tower collapse in Surfside, Florida. As we wait for answers for the cause of the accident, one local expert encourages Bay Area condo owners to have their foundations examined annually.

CW44 News At 10

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As of Friday evening, the number of those unaccounted for remains at 159 with four more confirmed to be deceased. Despite this, Miami Mayor Danielle Levina Cava says emergency responders maintain hope of saving more victims. First responders say the process is slow and methodical and efforts have been slowed in part due to a fire within the rubble pile.

The top question on many minds is what could cause such an abrupt collapse.

Project Manager, Jon Riley of Tampa’s CECO Concrete Construction says all causes are still purely speculation. It is, however a known fact that this older complex was built on wetlands. He adds, “It has been documented that the building is settling, two millimeters a year between the years 1993 and 1999. There was no further documentation… so the building could have continued to settle.”

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He also points out that the structural failure may have resulted in part due to added load and materials located on top of the building due to roofing repairs, initiated by that 40 year inspection.

“It could have been some slippage in the post tension, which was caused by the settling or corrosion on the post tension cables, plus the added weight and the heavy winds and rain that were happening that night. And all of this could have resulted in a failure in a beam; looked like a lower beam had failed and the top pancaked the rest of it.”

Scott Byrnes, Owner of All Corners Home Inspections says, “At this point, it’s like everybody’s guessing. And until you get the engineers in there to determine exactly what happened and why this happened… I definitely would not want to be the one who wants to guess at it.”

Considering the Bay Area is home to many high-rise condos, he emphasizes the importance of making sure our buildings are up to code, encouraging condo owners to have their foundations checked annually. “When you’re looking at anything structural inside of a home, the best thing to pay attention to is any settlement cracks that come up.”

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The 40 year old building was scheduled to undergo extensive repairs for damaged concrete and rusted steel. Byrnes says, “with the new hurricane codes, the new reinforcements and everything else, I would feel so much better going into something that was built within the last ten years compared to the last forty years.”