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Condominium near Surfside collapse deemed unsafe under evacuation orders

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NORTH MIAMI BEACH – The City of North Miami Beach ordered the immediate evacuation of a condominium north of the Surfside collapse on Friday night, after officials said the structure was considered “structurally and electrically unsafe As part of an urgent city-wide review.

“It’s just the right thing to do during these times,” City Manager Arthur Sorey III told reporters as people exited the building about a 20-minute drive from the Champlain Towers South ruins, where rescuers passed a week to search for victims and survivors. Local authorities were quick to check other buildings after the condominium suddenly collapsed, which left at least 22 dead and 126 missing.

Crestview Towers – a 10-story, 156-unit building built in 1972 – is the first tower to sound the alarm after the deadly Surfside collapse led North Miami Beach to launch a review of all five-story condominiums , verifying their safety and compliance with the local 40-year recertification process. As the sun set, residents of the apartment building still stepped out, pulling luggage, stuffing pillows and bikes into their car trunks as Floridians braced for Hurricane Elsa.

“Upstairs, the neighbors are crying,” said Karina Sobrino, 45, who owns two units in the condominium and has helped her 70-year-old mother to evacuate. “Because a lot of them don’t have families. I have no place to stay.

Officials said the building was closed out of “excessive caution” while a full assessment was being conducted. Crestview Towers should have been in the recertification process, Sorey said, but “did not comply” and submitted the problematic report dated Jan. 11 to the city on Friday afternoon.

“Many residents are unhappy. But everyone understands why we have to do this, ”Sorey said. “In light of the hurricane heading our way, at least we know people will be safe,” Sorey added.

Mariel Tollinchi, a lawyer representing the condominium association, said the group was not convinced the report deeming the building unsafe was accurate and requested a second review.

The council, made up of a group of residents, believed the January report had been submitted to the city by the engineer who drafted it and discovered that the building did not comply with the recertification process until. ‘in the audit following the Surfside condo collapse, Tollinchi said.

She said they’ve been doing repairs for the past two years and the recommended fixes will cost around $ 10 million, which they consider unreasonably high.

“It is simply impossible for a homeowner to spend $ 100,000 to make repairs to his house when he does not even live in his house and has to incur the expenses of living outside,” he said. said Tollinchi.

The city of North Miami Beach launched an audit of all buildings on June 29, Sorey told the Washington Post. City employees found that Crestview Towers had failed to get its 40-year and 50-year recertification and asked the condominium association to submit a safety report within 30 days.

At 2 p.m., Sorey said, the city received an engineer report, dated January 2021, which said the building was not safe to be occupied. At 5 p.m., he added, police were on site knocking on doors.

The city is working with the Red Cross and a local homeless organization to accommodate people unable to find alternative shelter; no one will be allowed to reside in the building until it is deemed safe, he said.

Sorey told reporters he was not yet sure how many people lived in the apartment, located at 2025 NE 164th St. Authorities hope to get people out in a few hours, he said, but will be there all night.

The city manager said he did not know when repairs could begin and added that the condominium association is responsible for bringing the building into compliance.

Asked about the evacuations at a press conference on Friday night, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the city of North Miami Beach had “taken the steps we recommended we reconsider for its sake.” ensure that the recertification process was completed in a timely manner. “

Denasha and Kesha Alceus, 15 and 21, leaned in the back of their car on Friday night, talking to friends by phone. Denasha said she had just woken up from a nap and was on her way to work when a man in a suit came knocking on their apartment on the fourth floor.

“They said we were not safe,” she said. “No one knew about this. No one even knew it was happening.

Sobrino’s mother, who was sweating as she piled boxes and luggage in a car, would stay with her children in other areas of Miami, Sobrino said. She said the resort was mostly occupied by Latino residents, some of whom were very elderly.

“They cry, they are afraid for their future, they are afraid of what to do with the furniture,” she said. “But better take care of the building,” she added, shrugging her shoulders. “Champlain Tours – it woke everyone up. “

At 8 p.m., the residents of Crestview were still swarming on their balconies. Local officials said police cleaned two floors of residents; the others are due to leave later Friday evening.

“We found the building unsafe. By law, they can’t stay, ”said Michael Joseph, a city commissioner for North Miami Beach.