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Surfside condo collapse could lead to legislation

Maria Fernanda Martinez, left, and Mariana Corderiro, right, of Boca Raton, Fla., stand outside of a 12-story beachfront condo building which partially collapsed, Friday, June 25, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami.   The apartment building partially collapsed on Thursday.(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Maria Fernanda Martinez, left, and Mariana Corderiro, right, of Boca Raton, Fla., stand outside of a 12-story beachfront condo building which partially collapsed, Friday, June 25, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami. The apartment building partially collapsed on Thursday.(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State and federal legislation could be proposed to address construction or engineering issues after the deadly condominium-building collapse in Surfside, where crews continued to search the rubble Monday.

Addressing reporters, Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said they await information from forensic investigations that are proceeding alongside search-and-rescue operations at the Champlain Towers South, which collapsed early Thursday.

“I think the people of Florida want to understand, how could this happen?” DeSantis said. “And then, what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? So, we’ll be working on that for the long term.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, joined in structural reviews being conducted by Surfside and Miami-Dade County.

DeSantis said the federal agency’s involvement is somewhat unique, as it has typically investigated damage from such things as the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“They’ve never done just a straight building collapse that wasn’t involved with either hazards or terrorism,” DeSantis said. “And so, this is going to be something that’s important. It is something that is going to be very thorough and is something that is not going to happen in a day or two. This is going to take a long time.”

Wasserman Schultz said the findings can have long-term implications “for how we change federal oversight and federal law related to building construction and the kind of code- enforcement decisions that will have to be made on the ground.”

Wasserman Schultz said the review will range from potential foundational defects in the pool area to other structural issues at the 12-story oceanfront complex and hopefully help answer if the conditions were unique to the Champlain Towers South.

“You know we have structures like this all the way up the coastline, all the way up the coastline of the United States,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And what NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) will be able to help do is, they’re a fact finding, not a fault-finding agency, and a long-term investigation of theirs would give us a chance --- for me as a member of Congress --- to be able to adopt changes in federal law that will help them make sure that when structures are built, that something like this could never happen again.”

The death toll at midday Monday had reached 10, with 151people unaccounted for.

DeSantis expressed support for the “outpouring” of millions of dollars in charitable donations in the wake of the collapse. But  Attorney General Ashley Moody on Monday also issued a consumer alert warning of potential charity scams.

“Anytime tragedy strikes, scam artists may try to prey on the goodwill of others by posing as representatives of a legitimate charity or espousing a fictional charity in order to solicit funds online, in person or over the phone,” Moody’s office said in a news release.

As of Monday morning, no fraud complaints had been filed, Moody’s office said.


About the Author:

Jim is a Capitol reporter for the News Service of Florida, providing coverage on issues ranging from transportation and the environment to Legislative and Cabinet politics.