Researchers Say Partially-Collapsed Miami Condo Had Been Sinking Into the Earth Since the 1990s

Part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South condo collapsed early June 24 in Surfside, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Via AP)

A Florida high-rise that collapsed early Thursday was determined to be unstable a year ago, according to a researcher at Florida International University.

The building, which was constructed in 1981, has been sinking at an alarming rate since the 1990s, according to a study in 2020 by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment.

When Wdowinski saw the news that the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside collapsed, he instantly remembered it from the study, he said.

“I looked at it this morning and said, ‘Oh my god.’ We did detect that,” he said.

Wdowinski said his research is not meant to suggest certainty about what caused the collapse. The building was sinking at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s and could have slowed or accelerated in the time since, he said.

In his experience, even the level of sinking observed in the 1990s typically results in impacts to buildings and their structures, Wdowinski said. He said that very well could have been the case for the Champlain building in the 1990s, based on his findings.

“It was a byproduct of analyzing the data. We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement,” Wdowinski said.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Gina Barton, Kyle Bagenstose, Pat Beall, Aleszu Bajak and Elizabeth Weise