SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - Miami-Dade commissioners have begun the long task of finding out the cause of the partial condo colllapse in Surfside.
Thursday’s commission meeting included a moment of silence for the victims and rescuers in the collapse of Champlain Towers’ South building.
Commissioners were briefed by county, state and federal agencies on the front lines of the investigation.
County officials vowed they will do everything in their power to prevent another similar tragedy from happening.
In addition to finding out what happened, commissioners said they want to know what can be done to make sure other buildings in the county are safe.
Many commissioners have visited the collapse site and met with the victims.
“It was very hard for me to go to that place,” said Commissioner Rebeca Sosa.
Commissioners said the collapse is having far-reaching effects across Miami-Dade County.
“The level of anxiety that there is and the questions we are getting from our residents is something that concerns me. It’s something that we’re trying to respond to,” said Commissioner Raquel Regalado.
An important part of that response is finding out whether local building codes and laws need to be rewritten to protect everyone living in condo buildings and high-rises.
Commissioner Javier Souto compared the process the commission is facing to what they did after Hurricane Andrew.
“I was part of the efforts that were done here when we changed the codes, the county codes, the building codes, and we did a hell of a job,” he said. “I was part of it here, in this board, in those days after Hurricane Andrew.”
To this day, South Florida has some of the strictest building codes in the country.
But the first steps in the Champlain South Tower collapse are just beginning, with the cause being investigated by local police, as well as state and federal agencies. One of these agencies is the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the World Trade Center collapse.
“In any building collapse, we want to understand how it was designed, how it was constructed, how it was modified, how it was maintained,” said Judith Mitrani-Reiser.
NIST officials have created a webpage asking for people who have photos, videos or other documentation of the collapsed building to upload them for investigators to review.
However, officials warned, that review will not be a quick process.
“This will be a fact-finding, not fault-finding investigation, and it will take time, possibly several years,” said Mitrani-Reiser.
Several commissioners expressed concern about moving too quickly. They said the investigations should be completed before making changes to local laws.
“In our passion and our need to react to something that was extraordinary horrific, sometimes we rush to change laws, and we never see whether it was actually the policy,” said Commissioner Oliver Gilbert III.
In the short term, the county has stepped up enforcement of the 40-year inspection process and is encouraging local cities to do the same.
Last Friday, hundreds of residents were displaced from the Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach. As enforcement steps up, local leaders said, the county has a plan to help anyone evacuated from an unsafe structure.
“We are working with our Office of Emergency Management and the Red Cross to create a process for any future evacuations, if needed,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “We were able to assist those that were evacuated from North Miami Beach.”
Similar efforts are underway in Broward County. During a meeting Wednesday, commissioners were informed there are six to eight buildings in Fort Lauderdale with some structural concerns. However, no buildings are currently in violation.
Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.