November 30, 2021

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Florida condo building deemed unsafe, evacuation ordered – Associated Press

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NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The city of North Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of a condominium building Friday after a review found unsafe conditions about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the site of last week’s deadly collapse in South Florida.

An audit prompted by the collapse of Champlain Towers South in nearby Surfside found that the 156-unit Crestview Towers had been deemed structurally and electrically unsafe months ago, the city said in a news release.

“In an abundance of caution, the City ordered the building closed immediately and the residents evacuated for their protection, while a full structural assessment is conducted and next steps are determined,” City Manager Arthur H. Sorey III said in the news release.

The evacuation comes as municipal officials in South Florida, and statewide, are scrutinizing older high-rises in the wake of the Surfside collapse to ensure that substantial structural problems are not being ignored.

Evacuating residents hauling suitcases packed items into cars Friday evening outside the Crestview, which was built in 1972.

North Miami Beach commissioner Fortuna Smukler rushed to the building Friday afternoon. She said authorities were working to help the evacuated residents find places to go. She said with the approaching storm it was an especially stressful time for the residents. Smukler knows two people who are still unaccounted for in the Surfside building collapse.

“I ran here right away because this is important to me. I needed to ensure that what happened in Surfside doesn’t happen here,” she said. “It could have been our building instead of Surfside.”

The mayor of Miami-Dade County had suggested an audit of buildings 40 and older to make sure they are in compliance with the local recertification process after the condo building collapse last week that killed at least 22 people and left more than 120 still missing.

After reviewing files, the city Building and Zoning Department sent a notification that the Crestview building was not in compliance. On Friday, the building manager submitted a January recertification report in which an engineer hired by the condo association board found the property unsafe. The city then ordered all residents to evacuate immediately.

“I am concerned that more buildings are in this condition. Hopefully, this is an easy fix. Thankfully, we have at least evacuated the residents and no harm will come to them or their pets,” Smukler said.

The Crestview condo association could not be immediately reached for comment on the delay between the January recertification report and Friday’s evacuation.

The North Miami Beach Police Department was helping with the evacuation.

The Crestview Towers Condo Association said in a lawsuit in federal court that it suffered $8.1 million in damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017. The condo association had sued its insurer, Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp., for not paying the claim. Attorneys for the insurer did not immediately reply to emailed requests for comment.

Itemized estimates listed in the lawsuit showed repair needs of more than $533,000 for the roof, $750,000 for concrete restoration, $605,000 for electrical work and $405,000 for new windows, among other repairs.

A parallel lawsuit also was filed in state court in Miami. This spring, the parties asked that the federal lawsuit be dismissed and agreed to begin mediation in May in the state lawsuit.


AP writers Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, and Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.

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