More than 300 residents have been ordered to evacuate a condominium building in North Miami Beach just five miles from the site of last week’s deadly Surfside collapse, after officials found it had been declared unsafe six months ago.
South Florida municipalities had ordered a review of all high-rise residential buildings over 40 years old in the aftermath of the collapse of Champlain Towers South, which has left at least 22 dead and 126 missing.
Buildings in Miami-Dade county are supposed to be recertified after 40 years, but when officials looked into the 50-year-old Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach they realized it had not undergone the required process, City Manager Arthur H. Sorey III told CNN.
When officials made inquiries, the building manager turned in a report Friday which was dated January 11, 2021, which stated the 156-unit Crestview Towers is ‘not structurally nor electrically safe for continued occupancy.’
Officials immediately ordered the building be evacuated and closed, with officials hoping to clear it within hours.
‘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,’ Sorey said.
‘Being in that building right now is not safe, and that’s our number one concern’
More than 300 residents of the Crestview Towers Condominium are being evacuated after a building inspection report turned in by the condo association outlined structural and electrical conditions
A woman is seen talking on the phone as she evacuate with personal belongings the Crestview Towers Condominium on Friday
Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach is five miles away from the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South Condo building which fell last week
People are seen evacuating with personal belongings from the Crestview Towers Condo
The move to evacuate was considered urgent due to the approach of Hurricane Isla, which is forecast to hit Florida as early as Monday
People are seen evacuating with personal belongings the Crestview Towers Condominium
People are seen evacuating with personal belongings from the Crestview Towers Condominium
Evacuating residents hauled packed suitcases into cars Friday evening outside the Crestview, which was built in 1972.
North Miami Beach commissioner Fortuna Smukler said she rushed to the building Friday afternoon after learning the news.
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.’
Crestview residents told of their fury that they had been living in an unsafe building for months.
‘Nobody knew. I didn’t know that the building was deemed unsafe since January, and now it’s what, July 2?’ Harold Dauphin told WSVN.
Some residents said they were not told why they were being evacuated, and were just told to get out as soon as possible.
One said: ‘The police stopped us and said, “Get all your stuff and get out”. I went out there, and I asked some people by the elevator what was going on, and they said, “You just have to get out”.’
A general view of the Crestview Towers Condominium, pictured on Friday in North Miami Beach
A woman is seen holding a ball in a balcony of the Crestview Towers Condominium
A woman is seen talking on the phone in a balcony of the Crestview Towers Condominium
: A man is seen evacuating with personal belongings from Crestview Towers
People are seen outside during the evacuation of the Crestview Towers Condominium
A man is seen in a balcony of the Crestview Towers Condominium
The building’s owners had not yet begun a mandatory safety recertification process required 40 years after it was built
Romado Stephens, who moved out of Crestview Towers last year, told the station: ‘That’s really, really, really, really bad, knowing that I have my family in there.’
He said that the building was in a state of disrepair and that water flowed from the ceiling of the garage.
He added: ‘This is the reason why I left from this place, because of the bad pipes and the flooding of the building. I was paying $1,400 in rent, and they’re not keeping up the building.’
The evacuation came as the mayor of Miami-Dade County announced on Friday that she had ordered the portion of Champlain Towers South that was still standing to be demolished.
The decision was made a day after there were fears the structure could completely collapse further disrupting rescue efforts.
‘The building poses a threat to public health and safety, and bringing it down as quickly as possible is critical to protect our community,’ said mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
People walk out of the Crestview Towers condominium after the city of North Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of the building, deeming it unsafe, in North Miami Beach
Women are seen outside the Crestview Towers condominium after the city of North Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of the building
All residents of the second building, Crestview Towers, were told to leave immediately after engineers found serious concrete and electrical problems
The city of North Miami Beach announced that an audit prompted by the deadly collapse of Champlain Towers found the 156-unit Crestview Towers building structurally and electrically unsafe
The evacuation comes as municipal officials in South Florida and statewide are scrutinizing older high-rises in the wake of the collapse to ensure that serious structural problems are not being ignored
Crestview Towers residents could be seen Friday evening hauling suitcases and packing items into cars outside the building, which was constructed in 1972
The demolition is unlikely to begin for several weeks.
On Friday, four more bodies were found bringing the total recovered to 22. 126 people remain unaccounted.
The numbers of those who were unaccounted dropped after officials found some people who had been marked missing were safe.
The mayor of Miami-Dade County suggested an audit of buildings 40 years and older to make sure they are in compliance with the local recertification process after last weeks collapse.
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.
A Miami-Dade County Police boat patrols in front of the Champlain Towers South condo building, where search and rescue efforts continue more than a week after the building partially collapsed
A dog assists search and rescue personnel atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of people remain missing one week after it partially collapsed
Search and rescue personnel remove remains on a stretcher as they work atop the rubble
A volunteer replaces wilted flowers with fresh ones at a makeshift memorial to the scores of victims of a partial collapse at the Champlain Towers South condo building
Workers transport a stretcher with remains extricated from the rubble, near the Champlain Towers South condo building
‘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.
Furniture sits perched in the remains of apartments sheared in half, in the still standing portion of the Champlain Towers South condo building which is now earmarked for demolition
A team secures sets of recovered remains in body bags, as search and rescue personnel work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building
Search and rescue personnel work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo
Search and rescue personnel work alongside heavy machinery
Rescue efforts resumed Thursday evening after being halted for most of the day over concerns about the stability of the remaining structure