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Florida condo collapse: What we know about the building, search efforts

Click to play video: 'Hope dwindles for search efforts at Florida condo collapse site'
Hope dwindles for search efforts at Florida condo collapse site
WATCH: Hope dwindles for search efforts at Florida condo collapse site – Jun 28, 2021

At least 150 people, possibly including four Canadians, are still unaccounted for after a 12-storey condominium building in the Miami area partially caved in last week.

The official death toll from the collapse in Surfside, Fla., rose to 11 on Monday as rescue teams continued to search for survivors among the wreckage without detecting further signs of life.

However, there are still hopes that survivors may be alive under the rubble, aided by air pockets in the debris, officials said.

Little is known about how the building collapsed, but there is a Canadian connection to the development of the structure, which was first built in the early 1980s, according to several media reports.

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As the rescue mission continues, here’s what we know and don’t know about the partial condo collapse.

What happened?

Champlain Towers South in Surfside — a town in Miami-Dade County — partially collapsed early on Thursday as residents slept.

At around 1:30 a.m. local time, the northern part of the building began to fold onto itself, followed by the eastern tower, which faces the ocean.

Click to play video: 'Surfside building collapse: 11th body found as 150 still missing'
Surfside building collapse: 11th body found as 150 still missing

The collapse happened in 11 seconds, according to the Washington Post.

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Several videos captured the moment of the tragedy.

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How many people have died, are unaccounted for?

As of Monday, at least 11 people were killed in the collapse. However, authorities warned that the number may rise.

There are 150 people still unaccounted for, but officials also said that number may shift as they try and determine exactly how many people were in the building when it collapsed. They said 135 people have been accounted for.

Click to play video: '4 Canadians among the missing following the Florida condo collapse'
4 Canadians among the missing following the Florida condo collapse

Over the weekend, the Miami-Dade Police Department identified eight of the victims as Stacie Dawn Fang, 54; Antonio Lozano, 83; Gladys Lozano, 79; Manuel LaFont, 54; Leon Oliwkowiicz, 80; Luis Bermudez, 26; Anna Ortiz, 46; and Christina Beatriz Elvira, 74.

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Who are the Canadians potentially missing?

On Friday, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said four Canadians may have been “affected” by the collapse.

The department did not specify whether any of the affected Canadians were injured or killed in the building’s collapse, and said no further information could be disclosed because of the Privacy Act.

Over the weekend, GAC confirmed the four affected Canadians were from three families.

An official said two Canadian families were living in the condo building at the time of the collapse, but an individual from a third family was staying with one of them at the time.

“Global Affairs Canada can confirm that at least four Canadian citizens are unaccounted for. Three different families have been affected by this tragedy,” the agency said in an emailed statement to Global News on Sunday.

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GAC said it is in contact with the families. It added that Canadian consular officials in Miami are in touch with local authorities to gather more information.

One of the building's developers was Canadian

The oceanside building 8777 Collins Ave. was built in 1981 by a group of developers, Champlain Towers South Associates, according to the Miami Herald.

Two other buildings with fewer units, Champlain Towers North Condo and Champlain Towers East Condo, were also developed by the group.

All three towers are 12 storeys tall, but the collapsed south tower has the most units, 136.

Google Image of Champlain Towers South. Google Maps

According to the Miami Herald and the Washington Post, one of the developers was Polish-born Canadian Nathan Reiber, who died in 2014 at the age of 86.

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During the early 1980s, Reiber moved to Miami after he was charged by the Canadian Revenue Agency with evading taxes, the Hamilton Spectator reported.

Reiber, and two other business associates, previously owned a building in Burlington, Ont., where they “skimmed” funds from self-operated coin laundries, according to the Spectator.

In July 1996, Reiber was fined $60,000 after pleading guilty to tax evasion in a Toronto court. He was given one year to pay the fine.

How did the building collapse?

The cause of the partial building collapse is still unknown and remains under investigation, officials said.

However, a 2018 report showed that an engineer found evidence of major structural damage beneath the pool deck and “concrete deterioration” in the underground parking garage of the oceanfront condominium.

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The report, released by town officials, was produced for the condominium board in preparation for a major repair project set for this year.

The engineer reported the deterioration would “expand exponentially” if it was not repaired in the near future.

Click to play video: 'Engineers flagged collapsed Florida condo’s structural problems in 2018'
Engineers flagged collapsed Florida condo’s structural problems in 2018

It was not immediately clear whether the damage described in the report was connected to the collapse.

A month after the 2018 report came out, a town inspector met residents and assured them the building was safe, according to minutes of the meeting first obtained by NPR.

Gregg Schlesinger, a lawyer and former general contractor who specializes in construction failure cases, said it was clear the deficiencies identified in the 2018 report were the main cause of the disaster. However, no official cause has been determined.

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Donna DiMaggio Berger, a lawyer who works with the condo association, said the issues outlined in the 2018 report were typical for older buildings in the area and did not alarm board members, all of whom lived in the tower with their families.

Rescue workers search the rubble of the Champlain Towers South condominium, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami. The building partially collapsed on Thursday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Shimon Wdowinski, a professor with Florida International University’s Institute of Environment, told CNN he determined in a study last year that the Champlain Towers South condo showed signs of sinking in the 1990s.

While Wdowinski told CNN this sinking alone would likely not cause the condo’s collapse, he said it could be a contributing factor.

“If one part of the building moves with respect to the other, that could cause some tension and cracks,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki said Monday that U.S. President Joe Biden believes “that there should be an investigation” into the building’s collapse.

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“A number of the resources that FEMA is sending to the ground — building science experts to the scene, officials from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, officials from OSHA, and the FBI — they’ve all been deployed to Surfside under their own authorities to help participate and provide expertise in that effort,” she said.

Search and rescue efforts

The disaster has prompted a massive search and rescue effort, now on its fifth day.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Jimmy Patronis, a Florida fire marshal, said search and rescue workers have been working 12-hour shifts to try and find survivors.

“They’re working around the clock, they’re working 12 hours at a time, midnight to noon, noon to midnight,” he told reporters.

“They come from Tallahassee, they come from Orlando, they come from Tampa, they come from Israel, they come from Mexico, they come from Jacksonville, they come from Fort Myers, they come and they leave their families to come and work around the clock.”

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Click to play video: 'Surfside building collapse: Search and rescue teams working ‘for over 100 hours straight,’ DeSantis says'
Surfside building collapse: Search and rescue teams working ‘for over 100 hours straight,’ DeSantis says

Officials said they have identified additional voids in the rubble where residents could be located, but there was no evidence that someone was inside of them. Crews were also listening to sounds coming from the rubble, such as taps and scratches, but so far no survivors have been found.

Alan Cominsky, chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, said his team must move slowly and methodically.

“The debris field is scattered throughout, and it’s compact, extremely compact,” he said, noting that teams must stabilize and shore up debris as they go. “We can’t just go in and move things erratically, because that’s going to have the worst outcome possible.”

Maggie Castro with the Miami-Dade fire rescue told Global News the search and rescue mission will continue, but as time goes, so do “the chances of us finding someone alive.”

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But, she said, “hope is what keeps everybody going.”

–With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun, Reuters and The Associated Press 

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