Evacuations Ordered From Miami Beach Condo on Same Avenue Where Tragic Collapse Happened Last Year
Is the climate crisis catching up to the Miami Beach waterfront?
On Thursday, October 27, an unsafe structure notice was posted on a 14-story oceanfront Miami Beach condominium, forcing its residents to evacuate in only two hours.
“We don’t know exactly what’s going on inside there but we can’t stay. That’s it,” nine-year resident Samy Bosch said, as AP News reported.
But the incident may be reflective of a larger problem, as sea level rise and erosion intersect with aging, poorly constructed infrastructure. The evacuated building was on the same avenue as the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Florida, which collapsed in 2021 killing nearly 100 people and prompting the largest emergency response in Florida history that wasn’t caused by a hurricane.
The recently evacuated building is the Port Royale condominium at 6969 Collins Avenue, as NBC 6 reported. It is located a little more than a mile south of the site of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse.
The evacuation came as part of the 50-year building recertification process. Around 10 months ago, an inspection turned up “areas of concern that we designated as a priority to be repaired,” Arshad Vioar said in an email to the Miami Beach Building Department reported by AP News.
Repairs of those areas then started around four weeks ago, but the process revealed that one of the main support beams in need of work had shifted and a crack in it that needed to be filled had expanded, prompting the evacuation order for the building’s 164 units.
“We take issues of building safety with utmost priority and won’t compromise the safety of our residents and visitors,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said in a statement reported by NBC 6 on Friday.
Inspection Engineers Inc. said it was waiting on a permit from the city to install “comprehensive shoring” within 10 days, after which another inspection will take place, according to AP News.
Investigations into the collapse of the Surfside condo turned up several underlying issues with South Florida’s waterfront properties. One is that many condos built during the 1970s and 1980s were constructed in a hurry with little regard for best practices.
“The situation in Miami is horrifying, and I fervently hope the missing victims will be found alive,” writer Justin Gillis tweeted in the aftermath of the Surfside collapse. “But, having worked as a newspaper reporter in Miami in the 1980s when condos like this one were being thrown up all over the place, I am not at all surprised.”
Another factor is how the climate crisis interacts with Florida’s geology. The area where the condo collapsed is sinking at a rate of two millimeters per year because of both sinkholes and sea level rise, according to Nexus Media News. Further, a study published in Ocean and Coastal Management in December of 2021 found that the number of times that sea levels rose past the building’s basement floor rose from an average of 244 times per year between 1994 and 2006 to an average of 636 times per year between 2007 and 2020, following the tripling of the rate of relative sea level rise in the area following 2006.
What happens when sea levels rise above a building’s basement level is that salt water can intrude into the basement, corroding the concrete foundation, the study’s author and Florida International University coastal geologist Randall Parkinson explained to NBC. A Miami-Dade County grand jury investigating the collapse also thought saltwater intrusion had likely damaged the condo’s foundations. It still isn’t clear if sea level rise was to blame for the tragedy, but the incident acts as a warning for what could happen along the Florida coast in the future.
“The tragic collapse of the Surfside condominium was a bellwether moment in coastal zone management because it forever changed the way we think about risk and vulnerability of the built and human environment,” Parkinson wrote in his 2021 paper.
After the collapse, Miami-Dade County changed its laws, requiring buildings to undergo a recertification process 30 years after construction instead of 40 years, and 25 years if they are within three miles of the coast, according to AP News. After the first recertification, buildings must be recertified every 10 years.
However, the case of the Port Royale evacuation indicates that the Surfside collapse may not have been the wake up call it seemed to be. Resident and renovation contractor Marash Markaj told AP News he had felt “unsafe” in the building because he had reported problems like standing water in the garage and cracked columns to no response.
“I’ve seen the issues for many years,” he said.