Mass. professor on what could cause a beachfront condo to suddenly collapse

SURFSIDE, Fla. (WCVB) — First responders were continuing their search for survivors after a beachfront Florida condo building partially collapsed Thursday outside Miami.

The wing of the 12-story building in the community of Surfside came down with a roar early Thursday morning. The tower resembled a giant fractured dollhouse, with one side sheared away.

“The building is literally pancaked,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean, to me, that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”

On video footage captured from nearby, the center of the building appeared to fall first, with a section nearest the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.

Work was being done on the building’s roof, but Burkett said he did not see how that could have been the cause.

The haunting video provides some clues as structural engineers assess how the tower could have crumbled to the ground.

Northeastern professor Mehrdad Sasani says a combination of factors likely played a role.

“Anything that would be in sequence of design, construction, deterioration over time, maintenance and current condition,” Sasani says.

Authorities did not say what may have caused the collapse on Thursday, but eventually, inspectors and engineers will closely inspect the debris, hoping to find any clues that could point them to a potential cause.

“In general, when you have a collapse like this, there is more than one issue,” Sasani says.

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