Florida condo disaster – world socialist web site
Search and rescue continued for a second day on Friday after part of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapsed in Surfside, Fla., Early Thursday morning. According to the latest reports, four residents have died and a dozen have been injured, but the toll is expected to rise dramatically, with 159 residents still missing.
Residents of the oceanfront building, located just north of Miami Beach, include retirees, middle-class families, and vacation renters. Depending on the number of people bedridden and the number of survivors who can be removed from the rubble, the Champlain Towers disaster will rank among the deadliest residential building collapses in American history. The incident once again exposes the decrepit state of infrastructure in the United States and raises questions about how such a building could collapse in the richest country in the world.
Among the missing is Edgar Gonzalez, whose wife Angela and daughter Devon, 16, survived a fall from the ninth to the fifth floor and are hospitalized with significant injuries. Luis Andres Bermudez and his mother Ana Ortiz, who lived together on the seventh floor, were also missing. According to CBS Miami, a family member reported that Bermudez suffered from muscular dystrophy and would be unable to cry out for help.
Built in 1981, the 12-story, 136-unit condominium was undergoing electrical and structural inspections in accordance with Miami-Dade County requirements that commercial and multi-family buildings must be recertified every 40 years, when it was first released. suddenly and catastrophically imploded, dragging 55 units to the ground.
“There is no reason for this building to fall like this,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told NBC. Today show, “Unless someone literally pulls the brackets out from underneath, or they’re blown away, or there’s a sinkhole or something, because it just fell.”
The exact cause of the structural failure that caused the overlap from one floor to the next has not yet been determined, but there have already been reports of concerns about the structure in recent years that may have contributed to the catastrophe.
In 2001 and again in 2015, a unit owner brought an action against the condominium association for failing to repair the cracks that had developed in the exterior wall of her apartment. According to the 2015 lawsuit, the cracks resulted in water damage amounting to $ 15,000. Such cracking can be a sign of the development of more serious problems in a reinforced concrete structure like the Champlain Towers.
A 2020 study of satellite data by Shimon Wdownski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, found that the building, built on reclaimed wetlands, had subsided at a rate by 2 millimeters per year in the 1990s. “We saw that this building had an unusual kind of movement,” Wdownski said USA today.
Structural engineer Paul Zilio told the Washington post that the rate of sinking could have contributed to the failure “because if this continued for the 40-year life of the building, the total of more than three inches of settlement could certainly contribute to the collapse.”
Investigators will also need to consider the impact of sea spray and rising sea levels caused by human-induced climate change by undermining the integrity of the structure, which is located within 500 feet of the sea. ‘Atlantic Ocean.
“Over time, salt water can penetrate the concrete and corrode the reinforcing steel, causing the reinforcing steel to expand,” Zilio explained to To post. “This expansion cracks the concrete and eventually flakes off pieces of concrete, weakening the capacity and making the reinforcing steel even more prone to corrosion.” He noted that the lower level parking garage would have been exposed to the corrosive effects of the spray.
Melting glaciers and warming ocean temperatures are already contributing to rising tides that inundate coastal areas of Miami-Dade County, routinely drenching the concrete foundations of skyscrapers in corrosive salt water and erosion of the waters. shores. Sea level in the region has risen one foot since the 1900s and is expected to rise another two feet by 2060.
The city of Miami estimates that $ 4 billion is needed over the next 40 years for a master plan to protect the city from rising waters, including six-foot-high levees and underground pipes to drain the water. water. Hundreds of thousands of people living on the Florida coast will be displaced if sea levels continue to rise.
“This is a tragic and devastating event, and it could be a canary-type event in the coal mine,” said Albert Slap, CEO of RiskFootprint, a company that assesses the vulnerability of buildings. flooding and storm surges. To post. “It’s not just one building. It could be something that could affect other buildings.
The Surfside condo collapse is just the latest in a series of disasters across the United States that have resulted from the degradation of infrastructure and the systematic undermining of health and safety regulations over the past four years. decades. Every aspect of American society has been made dependent on the flow of resources to the rich at the expense of the vast majority.
The latest bulletin from the American Society of Structural Engineers (ASCE) gives the country’s infrastructure a dismal C− rating. More than a third of school buildings have poor or poor heating and air conditioning systems, plumbing systems or windows. ASCE notes that there are over 46,000 bridges that are structurally deficient, but still see millions of trips every day. He reports that the country has a backlog of $ 125 billion in needed repairs to 231,000 bridges.
The Hernando De Soto Bridge, which connects Memphis, Tennessee, to Arkansas across the Mississippi River, was closed in May after a crack was discovered in a critical support beam, which could have resulted in failure catastrophic. The bridge is only inspected every two years. It was only by chance that another disaster was averted, such as a 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which left 13 people dead. Closer to Surfside, a pedestrian bridge collapsed over a freeway in Miami in 2018, killing four people.
Despite the urgent need for a historic investment in the country’s bridges, roads, homes, factories and schools to fix what is rapidly deteriorating and prepare for the catastrophic implications of climate change, the Biden White House is working with the Congress on an infrastructure bill that will be yet another giveaway for banks and businesses.
Biden has approved a bipartisan $ 579 billion proposal to be spread over five years, barely a drop in the bucket of what’s needed. Proposals to raise taxes on the rich to pay for new investments have already been sidelined. As Republicans and Democrats haggle over infrastructure spending, Biden has submitted a $ 753 billion military budget request for the next fiscal year, the largest on record.
We can be sure that the official investigation into the Surfside tragedy will cover up more than it reveals and that none of those primarily responsible will be held to account.
As with the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed the lives of over 600,000 Americans, the Surfside disaster highlights the reality that under capitalism, the interests of society are completely subordinated to the interests of the financial elite. , regardless of the cost in human suffering and loss of life. A solution to the problems facing humanity will not come from the profit system or from any of the parties of the financial oligarchy. This will require the revolutionary transformation of society under the democratic control of the working class on the basis of a socialist program.