Last Thursday night, a 12-story condominium building in Surfside, Florida collapsed into a massive pile of concrete and debris. While more than 100 people were rescued, 18 are now declared dead and nearly 150 are still missing and unlikely to be found alive.
Hundreds of first responders, including specialized search and rescue teams from as far away as Mexico and Israel, immediately sprung into action to try and locate survivors. Unfortunately, they’ve found none so far. Given the way the building collapsed, it’s unlikely the bodies of all of those who perished will be recovered and identified.
The world looked on in horror. We’ve seen the anger, frustration, and grief of the families as they wait for news. Search and rescue have been hampered by the state of the debris, fires burning underneath, and weather conditions.
How could this happen? It will likely take years for the final reports to come in, but already we’re hearing about inspections that warned of deteriorating conditions, water continuously pooling in the basement, shaking from construction across the street, and more.
There WERE warnings signs–but they were ignored by those who should have taken action. The residents whose lives were at stake were not aware of the severity of the situation.
This is not the first time a structure has collapsed because of structural decay, nor will it be the last. We know that many buildings, bridges, and overpasses are way past their expected useful life. We know these need to be re-engineered or replaced. It’s just that we have chosen not to pay attention to the problem.
What’s happened in Surfside is something that cannot be ignored. We need to use what we’ve learned here to revise building codes and inspect buildings in danger.
There’s a multibillion dollar infrastructure bill before Congress now. We need to encourage our legislators to put aside partisan differences and do what’s needed to shore up our crumbling bridges, overpasses, and other structures.
When the condo building fell last week, it didn’t differentiate between Republicans and Democrats, citizens and immigrants. Let’s make sure those who perished under 12 feet of concrete did not die in vain.
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