On the 24th of June, 2021, the beachfront building known as the Champlain Tower South suddenly partially collapsed, killing 98 of the people who were inside at the time. Who owns the Champlain Towers and what was the cause of the Surfside building’s collapse? It has been said that a major contributing factor to the Miami condo collapse was the degradation of the structural support’s reinforced concrete. Let us find out more about the collapse of the Champlain Tower South.
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What Happened to the Champlain Tower South?
|Architects||John Moriarty & Associates|
|Date of Collapse||24 June 2021|
|Location||Surfside, Miami Beach, United States|
Problems regarding the reinforced concrete had apparently already been reported in 2018, yet by April 2021, it had substantially worsened. Water had accumulated over time under the pool deck and began to corrode the reinforced steel. $15 million had been put aside for a remedial project, however, the building collapsed before the main structural work had begun.
The Miami Condo Collapse
Other potential factors include insufficient reinforced steel and land subsidence. More than two dozen potential factors were ultimately investigated, and it is thought that there could have been multiple factors that were simultaneously the cause of the Surfside building’s collapse. On the 24th of June, 2021, the Champlain Towers South’s pool deck unexpectedly collapsed at around 1:14 a.m., followed by the gradual collapse of the tower’s eastern wing and central section at 1:22 a.m.
The structure collapsed in less than 12 seconds. According to surveillance camera footage, a huge north-central piece of the structure collapsed first.
This separated and destabilized a portion of the tower’s northeastern corner, which crumbled around nine seconds later. At least half of the 136 apartments in Champlain Tower South were destroyed. A total of 98 individuals were reported to have died, with all of them being identified. On the 6th of July, it was announced that 126 people had survived.
More than 80 rescue teams reacted to the collapse on the 24th of June. According to Charles Burkett, Surfside’s Mayor, 11 individuals were treated at the site, one person died, and two individuals were hospitalized. Both victims, a woman, and her daughter were seriously injured after falling from the ninth to the fifth level of the building. Their cat was afterward located roaming near the collapsed tower. On the 24th of June, at least 35 individuals were recovered, and a woman’s voice could be heard until approximately 11:00 a.m., but searchers were unable to reach her. On that same day, Governor DeSantis visited the scene and declared a state of emergency. The White House said it was in communication with local officials and offering support, and President Joe Biden was updated on the incident.
Rubble of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South building and rescue workers from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department preparing to enter the rubble with a rescue dog (2021); Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Israel provided victims of the collapse with clothing, food, medication, water, and other necessities. More than 35 of the missing were Jewish, however, it was unclear whether any of them were Israeli citizens. United Hatzalah dispatched a squad specializing in emotional and psychological recovery following traumatic experiences. On the 25th of June, Mayor Levine Cava reported that rescue crews from Mexico and Israel had entered the search and rescue mission, combing through the wreckage in two daily 12-hour shifts.
On the 26th of June, the Mayor stated that a fire burning deep below the debris, as well as accompanying smoke, was hindering fire and rescue personnel’s abilities to find people. She said the fire moved laterally all through the pile, making it impossible to pinpoint its origin.
Surfside Mayor ordered Champlain Towers North residents to leave with FEMA assistance until a comprehensive structural examination had been undertaken, adding that the South and North towers were built by the same developer around the same time, and presumably utilizing identical designs and materials, therefore the risk of another collapse could not be ignored. On the 27th of June, FEMA reported that the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which has extensive expertise with major construction, demolition, restoration, and forensic engineering programs, would be providing onsite support. The Mayor said that evening that nine victims had been declared dead and 152 were unaccounted for. Later that night, four additional identities were disclosed, leaving just one of those confirmed deceased unidentified. Two of the deceased were identified as Venezuelan citizens.
Firefighters from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department searching through the rubble of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South building for survivors (2021); Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.The original uploader was TheEpicGhosty at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
On the 28th of June, another fatality was reported, increasing the total number of fatalities to 10, with 150 persons still unaccounted for. Although the operation was already on its fifth day, the Fire Rescue Chief emphasized that the operation remained focused on the hunt for and potential rescue of individuals rather than moving to recovery. The Mayor announced on the 29th of June that no further survivors or fatalities had been discovered, but that more than 200 rescue personnel were on the scene, each serving 12-hour shifts. Workers were medically checked on a regular basis to guarantee their ability to work safely. The enormous fire deep within the rubble pile that had impeded the search and rescue efforts since the building collapsed was eventually put out. Tiny radio-controlled vehicles with heat sensors and 360-degree camera systems were deployed to help with search and rescue activities.
It was reported that evening that 12 individuals had been confirmed killed and 149 were still missing.
On the 1st of July, operations were paused at the site at 2:00 a.m. because of fears that the western section of the tower, which had not yet fallen, was becoming increasingly likely to do so, posing a risk to rescue workers. Concerns grew that Tropical Storm Elsa would make landfall in Florida, severely weakening the tower and the wreckage and hampering rescue efforts even further. After a 15-hour wait, the search continued in the early evening, and police disclosed the identity of another casualty, leaving one person publicly unidentified.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which deployed engineers and scientists to the site on the 25th of June, declared that it would conduct a comprehensive study into the Miami condo collapse in order to determine best practices for preventing similar tragedies in the future. Because of the huge influx of search and recovery personnel, authorities, and researchers from across the country and from countries outside the United States, and the subsequent scarcity of hotel rooms, some of the workers were accommodated on the Royal Caribbean Group’s Explorer of the Seas cruise ship, which was docked at Port Miami.
After the Rescue Effort
The mayor then directed that the remnant structure be dismantled as quickly as possible. Ongoing structural engineering studies revealed that the structure’s standing component was extremely unstable, posing a risk to workers on the scene. Authorities revealed the finding of a further nine bodies on the 7th of July at a private morning meeting with families and a subsequent briefing for the press. The Fire Chief indicated that the relatives of 32 of the deceased had been contacted and that they had shifted to a recovery effort, as victims still trapped at that point were considered highly unlikely to still be alive. On the 17th of June, the town of Surfside reported that it had hired Allyn Kilsheimer to investigate the cause of the Surfside building’s collapse and examine the integrity of nearby and similar structures and offer geotechnical and original-design analyses.
A view of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building, with rescue workers visible on the ground (2021); Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
According to an in-depth investigation published on the 5th of July by The New York Times, the Miami condo collapse sparked an examination of many of southeast Florida’s older skyscrapers, as management of other towers neglected or postponed action on major maintenance problems. Gov. DeSantis signed legislation requiring stronger condominium inspections into law, codifying a settlement made by legislators in reaction to the catastrophic Champlain Tower South collapse. The City of Miami Beach scrapped its traditional Fire on the Fourth event, which was set to take place blocks away, as a mark of respect for the deceased and their families.
As this all happened quite recently, there is still much to discover about the cause of the Surfside Building’s collapse. However, it is essential that the authorities work with the Champlain Tower developer to get to the bottom of it so that nothing similar occurs again by. Hopefully, the loss of lives will serve as a wake-up call to building owners across the country to check the status of their buildings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happened to Champlain Tower South?
98 people were killed when the Champlain Tower South, a seaside skyscraper, abruptly fell on the 24th of June, 2021. Unfortunately, it is still not yet known what the cause was of the Miami condo collapse. There have been many theories put forward, and over two dozen potential causes were identified and examined. It is believed that it was most likely the cause of several issues regarding degrading structural elements.
Who Owns the Champlain Towers?
The site where the towers once stood is now owned by a Dubai-based company known as DAMAC properties. The original Champlain Tower developer was John Moriarty & Associates of Florida, but they vehemently deny that the building collapsed due to their construction practices. The company from Dubai is said to have paid $120 million for the property.
Justin van Huyssteen is a freelance writer, novelist, and academic originally from Cape Town, South Africa. At present, he has a bachelor’s degree in English and literary theory and an honor’s degree in literary theory. He is currently working towards his master’s degree in literary theory with a focus on animal studies, critical theory, and semiotics within literature. As a novelist and freelancer, he often writes under the pen name L.C. Lupus.
Justin’s preferred literary movements include modern and postmodern literature with literary fiction and genre fiction like sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, and horror being of particular interest. His academia extends to his interest in prose and narratology. He enjoys analyzing a variety of mediums through a literary lens, such as graphic novels, film, and video games.
Justin is working for artincontext.org as an author and content writer since 2022. He is responsible for all blog posts about architecture, literature and poetry.
Cite this Article
Justin, van Huyssteen, “Champlain Tower South – The History of the Champlain Tower.” Art in Context. May 11, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/champlain-tower-south/
van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 11 May). Champlain Tower South – The History of the Champlain Tower. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/champlain-tower-south/