Miami Beach apartments evacuated after structural damage found

Residents fled their homes after an inspector discovered problems in an empty flat

Search and rescue teams look for possible survivors of the collapse of the 12-storey Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Florida. AFP
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A three-storey apartment block in South Florida was evacuated after damage was found to external walls and the floor of a vacant flat.

Fire officials were called to the building on Saturday and residents ordered to leave “out of an abundance of caution”, said Miami Beach spokeswoman Melissa Berthier.

Resident Jeffrey Gibson, a Navy veteran, spent the night with his cat in his small car after being urged to flee.

Police “explained that there is some like, I guess, sinkage happening on the main level”, he said. “And that was causing some extreme concern with, you know, the possibility of the whole building being extremely unsafe for anyone to live in. So that’s why the building was evacuated.”

The block contains 24 homes, 11 of which were unoccupied.

A building inspector found a flooring system failure and “excessive deflection” on an exterior wall, Ms Berthier said.

Several residential buildings in Florida are being surveyed in response to the collapse of Champlain Towers South, in Surfside, on June 24.

At least 24 people were killed when part of the block gave way, and 121 others remain unaccounted for.

On Friday, occupants were forced out of Crestview Towers, a 156-flat development in North Miami Beach, after it was deemed structurally and electrically unsafe.

“The sediment that a lot of buildings are built upon, it almost sounds like it’s in a scripture from the Bible – you know, don’t build your castle on the sand, and that’s what a lot of buildings in Miami Beach, right, are exactly built on,” Mr Gibson said.

“So I do believe there’s a serious domino effect that we might, you know, very well see in the near future.”

Updated: July 04, 2021, 7:42 PM