Early in the morning on June 24 at around 1:30 AM, residents woke to fire sirens when the Surfside, Florida residential, Chaplain Towers collapsed. A little over a week later, 20 people have been confirmed dead, and 128 residents are still unaccounted for.
The sea-view condo was built in 1981, in the southeast corner of Surfside on the beach and included more than 100 units. According to ABC News, the city of Surfside released documents in 2018 with an estimated $9.1 million in needed repairs for major structural damage and failed waterproofing. However, another document later released that same year claimed that the concrete framing of the building was in good condition. According to The Guardian, unconfirmed reports claimed that work had been taking place on the roof of the building that collapsed.
Susan Alvarez, a building resident recalled that the maintenance staff informed her that the building was under good condition. “The town of Surfside said to us that the building was not in bad shape…No one ever, ever, ever told us that the building was in such bad shape,” she told National Public Radio.
Fifty-three condo residents were rescued and 102 have been accounted for, however, there are still 128 residents that are missing. Many of those who lived in the apartment complex are natives of Paraguay, Argentina, Columbia, Venezuela, and Uruguay.
Witnesses gave harrowing accounts of the moments following the collapse.
“I could hear somebody yelling, screaming. I could hear by the voice it was a little boy. I saw an arm sticking out of the debris,” Nicholas Balboa, who lives nearby, told CNN.
Soriya Cohen believed that her husband, Brad Cohen, and brother-in-law were in the complex during the collapse. She’s been devastated, calling their phones multiple times.
“He [her husband] always wanted to live such a long life. You would never think that anything like this could happen. You saw that rubble? How will they even find him? There’s no way he’ll be alive in that.”
Gabe Near, a survivor of the building collapse, is grateful to be alive. “I didn’t think it was real. I thought it was a dream. There was a lot of rumbling noises going on when it first collapsed and the second collapse [was] even more intense.”
Chaplains, religious groups, and the Red Cross have devoted their resources to support survivors. Rescue search teams have also been developed to search for those who are still missing. A Florida officer said, “I can tell you that our team is going to keep going until they tell us to stop. If it’s one day, a month, [or] a year, they’re not going to stop digging, they’re not going to stop working.”
The North and East buildings of Chaplain Towers have been under review, and nothing alarming has been found. Still, the mayor Charles Burkett said that resources and assistance will be provided for residents who voluntarily evacuate those buildings. President Joe Biden also made a vow that the Federal Government will support Florida in whatever the State needs.