The mayor of Miami has ordered hundreds of buildings older than 40 years to be inspected after the collapse of an oceanfront apartment block that left at least 18 people dead, including two children.
Officials confirmed on Wednesday evening that the children, aged four and ten, were among the dead at Champlain Towers South, a 12-storey, 136-apartment building in the Surfside area of Miami that collapsed last week. 142 people are still unaccounted for.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava has promised to ensure that no other high-rises in the city are compromised.
There is no state law in Florida that requires high-rise buildings to be inspected regularly.
In Miami Dade, the current rules stipulate that buildings have to be recertified every 40 years. In New York City, by comparison, it is every five years.
Out of the 501 buildings identified by the mayor’s office that have not been recertified and need to be visited, only 131 have so far been contacted.
Miami mayor Daniella Levine Cava is forming a new team of experts in areas including engineering, construction and soil analysis
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The Miami Dade county inspector confirmed that they had already ordered the closure of parts of one building, with balconies said to be dangerous.
Ms Levine Cava said she was forming a team of experts in areas including engineering, construction and soil analysis.
"They will advise me on issues related to building construction, the chain of custody and requirements for reporting condominium issues and more, so we can look into recommended charges to ensure that tragedies like this one never ever happen again," she told reporters on Tuesday.
An engineer working on Champlain Towers South, which was built in 1981, had warned that there was evidence of "major structural damage" below the building’s pool deck. A consultant had been hired to start on a 40-year recertification process.
A total of 12 bodies have been recovered from the ruins, and 149 people are still unaccounted for
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Jason Pizzo, the state senator, said that he wanted the law to be changed to enforce stricter and more frequent inspections.
"We do need a statewide look, either by statute, by rule or by policy, and it really needs to incorporate two completely separate things," he said.
"You have an environmental situation which is completely different than the design and construction, so, what I want to be mindful of is that it’s not just the age of a building that may deteriorate over time, but also the geographic location."
Residents up and down the coast of Florida are now demanding to know if their buildings are safe. However, residents of high-rises near Champlain Towers South have not been evacuated, and some have said they are so concerned that they are finding alternative accommodation.
Lawyers expect that the deadly collapse will prompt legislative change to existing building codes, much like Hurricane Andrew in 1992 resulted in stronger regulations across Florida.