‘Astronomical’ corrosion at site of Florida building collapse: experts

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View of the partially collapsed residential building as rescue operations are stopped, in Surfside, Florida, U.S., July 4, 2021.

The beachfront Florida condo building that collapsed this summer, killing 98 people, showed signs of “astronomical” levels of corrosion, according to a new report.

Video footage and photos included in a federal probe into Champlain Towers South, which pancaked shortly before 1:30 a.m. on June 24, showed “congested” rebar columns and “powdery” concrete in key spots, according to a team of experts interviewed by the Miami Herald.

“The corrosion on the bottom of that column is astronomical,” said University of Washington structural engineering professor Dawn Lehman.

“If there’s that amount of corrosion, this should have been fixed,” she said. “There is no reason there should be that kind of bar congestion.”

The images show beams, walls and columns overcrowded with steel reinforcement, a sign of potential weakness in the structure, the experts said.

View of the partially collapsed residential building as rescue operations are stopped, in Surfside, Florida, U.S., July 4, 2021.
A new report found signs of “astronomical” levels of corrosion at the Surfside condo that collapsed killing 98 people.
REUTERS/Marco Bello

Particularly problematic are spots where the rebar overlaps, known as “lap splice.”

Abieyuwa Aghayere, an engineering researcher at Drexel University, told the Herald that he was also taken aback by white “powdery” concrete in some columns.

Those findings suggest possible saltwater erosion, he said.

“The white color just stuns me,” Aghayere said. “It doesn’t look like normal concrete to me. What’s going on?”

The analysis comes as the National Institute of Standards and Technology said Wednesday it will launch a five-part investigation into the collapse led by Miami engineer Judith Mitrani-Reiser, a Cuban-born expert.

“We are going into this with an open mind and will examine all hypotheses that might explain what caused this collapse,” Mitrani-Reiser told the outlet.

“Having a team with experience across a variety of disciplines, including structural and geotechnical engineering, materials, evidence collection, modeling and more, will ensure a thorough investigation.”

The 40-year-old tower north of the Miami border was on the verge of a $15 million repair and maintenance project when it collapsed.

A 2018 engineering report at the building found “major structural damage” at the site, particularly in a pool deck area atop the building’s underground garage.

First responders spent weeks at the site sifting through the rubble, finding the remains of 98 people. No survivors were found after the day of the collapse.

With Post wires

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