Officials Have 'Significant Concerns' About Collapsed Condo's 'Sister Building'

Surfside, Florida, officials are doing a "deep dive" into the structural integrity of a building that neighbors the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium and are concerned about residents' safety.

The reason for the sudden collapse of Champlain Towers South condominium is not yet known, but years earlier an engineer found significant damage to parts of the building. Given that the Champlain Towers North, about a block away, was built by the same developer and used the same plans, officials are concerned that it may not be structurally sound either.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said officials are working with the condominium association of the "sister" building and advised it to do a "full structural review."

"We are doing a deep dive with respect to the sister building," Burkett said. "Given we do not know why the first building fell down, we have significant concerns about that building and the residents here."

surfside florida collapsed building
Surfside, Florida, officials have concerns about the sister building of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium. Above, a resident of Champlain Towers North stands on his balcony on June 29. Getty Images/Chandan Khanna/AFP

It's possible the Champlain Towers North used the same materials as the building that fell, and residents were given the option to temporarily move out, according to Burkett. Several residents took the city up on its offer, but most decided to remain in their homes.

The building was completed one year after the collapsed building was erected and faced exposure to the same tides and salty air that are considered among the suspected reasons for why Champlain Towers South's structural integrity failed. However, residents told the Associated Press their building didn't have the same cracking that concerned an engineer in 2018.

While resident Philip Zyne wants a full examination done, he told the AP he's "not worried at all right now" and hasn't seen "any major structural issues." He estimated only about a quarter of the building's residents left. One resident who did leave, Rebecca Weinstock, told the AP she would return only if two independent engineers who aren't from South Florida conduct an investigation and deem the building safe.

Nearly two weeks after Champlain Towers South collapsed, teams have yet to find any survivors, and the death toll continues to climb. On Tuesday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava confirmed that first responders have found four more bodies, raising the death toll to 32. Of those who have been found, 26 people have been identified.

The search and rescue mission was complicated from the start because the debris was so tightly packed that there were significant portions of the area that rescuers couldn't enter. However, more and more tunnels are being located. Colonel Golan Vach, the leader of an Israeli search and rescue unit, told Newsweek that's what gives him hope his team's members will be successful. Their goal isn't just to find survivors; it is to locate anyone and return that person to the family.

"It is our main core, the sanctity of life," Vach said. "Sanctity of life is not only the one who is lost. It is the families' lives. We know that without closure there are no lives, so the sanctity of life is for the missing people, as well as the families. For us, to be able to return a loved one to the families of a missing relative, it's a core value."

An added complication for the search and rescue mission is Tropical Storm Elsa. Surfside isn't in its direct path but the storm is bringing rain and wind to the area. First responders worked through "extremely adverse" conditions, Levine Cava said Tuesday, and stopped only briefly, as required by law, because of lightning.

Officials also aren't certain how many people they're looking for. There are 113 reports of people who are potentially unaccounted for, but Levine Cava said detectives have had challenges following up with the people who filed the report. As a result, it's been "very difficult" to determine whether an individual was in the building at the time of the collapse.