Heartbreak and Rage

I’m sure that by now you’ve all heard about the collapse of Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida in the wee hours of Thursday morning.  You probably already know that there are 5 confirmed dead, 11 injured, and 159 people missing as of this writing.  This story is heartbreaking enough in and of itself, but a couple of things I read earlier this evening … add to the heartbreak and also the rage.

127 people escaped or were evacuated, some from the other side of the building, some from the collapsed side.  They did not have time to pack belongings and most have now lost everything they own.  Some are staying in nearby motels.  Friends and family of the missing have flown in to await word of their loved ones and they, too, are staying at nearby motels.  Those motels, two in particular, the Residence Inn and the Four Seasons, saw an opportunity and they seized it … by raising their rates to between $800 and $1,500 per night!  Is this not the most unconscionable thing imaginable?  If anything, I would have expected them to offer the rooms for free, or at the very least at a greatly reduced rate!  Needless to say, the managers of those motels will NEVER find themselves on Filosofa’s ‘good people’ posts!

The other thing is the report that three years ago, in October 2018, a consultant, Frank Morabito, found alarming evidence of “major structural damage” to the concrete slab below the pool deck and “abundant” cracking and crumbling of the columns, beams and walls of the parking garage under the 13-story building.  As a result, it is reported that a multi-million-dollar repair project was set to “get underway soon” … nearly three years later!

From the New York Times

In a statement on Saturday, Mr. Morabito’s firm, Morabito Consulting, said it provided the condo association with both an assessment of the “extensive and necessary repairs” needed and an estimate of how much they would cost.

“Among other things, our report detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public,” the statement said.

Emails show that the secretary of the condo association forwarded the report to an official in the town’s building department on Nov. 13, 2018. The town did not disclose any further correspondence related to the report.

In all likelihood the 159 missing people are dead somewhere under the massive rubble pile.  Meaning that a death toll of 164 people could have been prevented if the condo association had done their job, had taken Morabito’s report seriously and put lives ahead of profit.  I think we will be seeing hundreds of wrongful death lawsuits, the first already having been filed yesterday.  I hope every plaintiff wins his case!  Even those who got out safely have lost all their worldly possessions and have grounds for a lawsuit.  Ignoring the 2018 report was by any measure grossly unconscionable.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade announced a 30-day audit of all buildings 40 years and older under the county’s jurisdiction, and she urged cities to do the same for buildings within their borders.  As my grandpa would have said, “Talk about closing the barn door after the cows got out!”

No doubt further details will be coming in the days ahead, there will be stories of survival and of grief, and I may write more about this at some point, but that’s all I know for now.

59 thoughts on “Heartbreak and Rage

  1. Pingback: Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures | Wibble

  2. Jill, it saddens me that this happened. It saddens me further that someone wrote a report three years ago and said the building was a hazard. It seems more than a few a failures of structures have been forewarned. Well before Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corp of Engineers said New Orleans’ levees could not stand a direct hurricane hit of high magnitude. Nothing was done and it failed.

    Because legislators are ten years over due on an infrastructure bill, patch work has been used to keep thing from falling. There have been some breaches. And, there will be more. America is in bad place for many reasons, one of which is we are too scared to pay for repairs and new structures and we using too much debt to pay for operations not repairing assets. Keith

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    • I fully agree, my friend. My heart broke when I first head of this, then again when I heard how many people are missing and no doubt must be presumed dead by this point. Then, when I heard about the motel owners price-gouging, preying on those who are in severe distress, I felt white-hot rage. Sigh. But yes, we have allowed our infrastructure, both private and public, to degrade for far too long and I fear this catastrophe may be only the beginning. What if the George Washington Bridge between NYC and New Jersey collapses some day at rush hour? Can you imagine how many … thousands … 😥

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      • Jill, the stories are many. I recall the Minneapolis highway, the Bay area bridge, several train bridge collapses, balconies falling, etc. I remember one NC senator not being able to recall the use of the last Highway Fund increase going to rebuild something. I wrote him a note and said there is a new bridge built thirty minutes from your home. I don’t know why legislators are so reluctant to provide funds for this. It keeps us safe and provides jobs. Keith

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        • Makes me wonder if we have the worst record among Western nations for such disasters? I think legislators see this as something of an albatross, something that is essential to our lives, but most people don’t get very excited over it. Legislators would rather push forward those things that people can relate to easily, rather than those that people only seem to care about when there is a disaster.

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  3. This is a terrible tragedy, just about 15 miles north of us, and we know some people in the area. Motels raising rates is reprehensible, to say the least. However, many people in the area have opened their homes to survivors, local synagogues are raising funds for relief, and there are more donations and volunteers than they could handle. College where I teach pitched in with its own Volunteer Registration Hot Line and other institutions are joining. We are all doing our best to help. Prayers for missing people are appreciated.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing the news that people are opening their homes and pocketbooks to those in need right now! That is a bit of bright news in this otherwise tragic situation. Our hearts go out to all involved and thank you for all that you’re doing!

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      • The victims of this horrific tragedy appreciate your support and the sentiments of people worldwide. Living in a hurricane-prone area, we are used to rallying up to offer support to those in need. It is especially relevant when a man-made tragedy strikes, and this one is definitely man-made!

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        • Yes, much like people in California who have been subjected to horrible wildfires for the past several summers … they’ve learned to pull together and look out for each other! This condo tragedy though … this was so preventable, but profit was placed ahead of people once again. Sigh. When will we humans ever learn?

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          • Condo politics are weird. I don’t think it was a matter of profit, but rather hitting unit owners with a huge special assessment. The board members are elected and are not paid for holding these positions it’s purely voluntary. Most of the time, when unit owners are hit with special assessments, they suspect the board of taking kickbacks under the table. Whether it is true in this case is for the courts to decide. My guess is that the assessment was supposed to be so enormous that the board was simply shopping around for a better deal. However, that does not explain why they couldn’t move their behinds faster and not wait for 3 years! I don’t think anybody realized the extent of danger. It is also possible that this particular condo had a rule that special assessment must be voted in by majority of unit owners, rather than the board, and unit owners screamed when they heard the numbers. Terrible!

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            • Yes, I read something along those lines, too. I suppose we’ll find out eventually why, 3 years after the warning, nothing had been done. Then again, if you recall Grenfell Towers in the UK … that is still being resolved, some 4 years later!

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                • and there’s this I just found, people in other complexes are afraid but he asks a good question at the end. Where is the money for the infrastructure package going? Not to any of these buildings.

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                  • Well, Scott … while yes, there is a great need to renovate and update these buildings, they are all privately owned, and any infrastructure bill is highly likely to only cover federally owned buildings, water systems, transport systems, highways, bridges, dams, etc.

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  4. Pingback: Heartbreak and Rege | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  5. I hadn’t heard about this yet, Jill, but that’s unsurprising considering I’m half a planet away. The twin reveals of the appalling failure of the condo’s owners to act in response to the 2018 report, and the unacceptable price gouging by the motels nearby are further proof (not that I needed any more) that homo fatuus brutus deserves its fate.

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        • Indeed, I did! I’m on a mission to get our species renamed from ‘homo sapiens sapiens’ (‘the wise, thinking man’) on the grounds that in order to properly deal with a problem it is first necessary to recognise its origin.

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          • I fully support your mission, for you are right … until we see the problem, we won’t even attempt to fix it, and many still seem to think that the human species is somehow superior! When I’m asked sometimes what species I belong to, rather than hang my head in shame and mumble “human”, I lie and say I am a wolf!

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            • I’ve been looking into this recently. I had thought of setting up a petition to try to get our species name changed. However, after investigation (as to whom I might address such a petition), it would appear that our fate is already sealed: a species name is locked in by the rules applied by the ‘International Code of Zoological Nomenclature’; the ‘Principle of Priority‘ would appear to apply; that is to say: we have already been named, so we can’t be renamed. The orobouros is complete, and self-sustaining.

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              • Well, those species names were arbitrarily chosen by … humans … and they could be changed, again by humans. I think, though, as I’ve been thinking and pondering for quite some time now, that there are actually two species, both of which are being called human. Seems to me that those who would claim the title ‘human’ (or hooman, as my moggies would say) must have one key quality: compassion, ie humanity. Far too many claim to be ‘human’ yet have no humanity, so how CAN they be human? I think we need to do some further research here!

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                • Far too many claim to be ‘human’ yet have no humanity, so how CAN they be human?

                  Well put. Agreed.

                  As for ‘research’, I’ve been doing some (on a somewhat-related tangent; watch out for a new post from me next week). It seems that the folks in charge of species naming are the ICZN. I think we’d have a tough time persuading them that there are two species involved here; I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t consider psychological traits as being relevant.

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                  • I will keep a lookout for next week’s post! I suppose you’re right about the ICZN … but to me, the behaviour of a species as well as physiology must have some common traits, and I swear there are humans on this earth with whom I have absolutely NOTHING in common! I’m looking forward to my next life where I plan to be a wolf … wolves are so much simpler!

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    • True, but I’m a bit surprised, for I understand that The Guardian and BBC have covered it extensively. You are so right, my friend … in a tragedy like this, people show who they really are. There are the good people who are opening their homes, donating food, and helping in any way they can, and then there are the arseholes who are raising their room rates by 700%!!!! Profit over people seems to be the corporate motto these days. Sigh.

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  6. these hotels and the condo association make me very angry but the town is responsible as well, at least the office to which the secretary of the condo association emailed the report. In my book, 3 years is not soon enough to start working on a project like this, people should have got moving on it immediately. that’s the problem with officials and inspectors and other people in government, you report a problem and it takes decades to get anything done. I submit that if the private sector had taken responsibility, meaning the condo association paid for the work themselves and hired their own contractors, things would have gotten done faster and with better quality.

    as for the hotels, the responsibility of a business like this is not only to make a profit, for which I don’t fault them for, but it’s also to serve the community in times of trouble and desperate need and in this capacity, these hotels have failed spectacularly.
    though I don’t expect them to just give away the rooms for free, I would have hoped that they would have given the rooms at a substantial discount like you say. surely their executives can help out by contributing to the fund from their sizable bonuses they’ve collected over the years.

    It’s the same thing with these stores who charge an arm and a leg for bottled water when there is an emergency like a natural disaster, or when gas stations raise their rates during said times of trouble.

    It makes me sick when a business takes advantage of people who are vulnerable and in a desperate situation they’re no better than the morons who buy up all the toilet paper and then turn around and sell it at astronomical profits. It’s selfish and shameful and I have nothing but contempt and loathing for such reprehensible practices.
    .

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    • In this, you and I are in complete agreement, my friend. Gouging people in a crisis, putting profit ahead of lives, is simply unconscionable, inhumane. On a more positive note, a reader who lives near that area tells me that the community is pitching in, opening their homes, donating food, etc. Good people will show up when they are needed, yes?

      Like you, I think it is horrible that they sat on that report for 3 years. My understanding is that the cost was a barrier … the homeowner’s association would be responsible for footing the bill, meaning each of the condo owners would have to cough up a percentage … a large amount of money from what I’m told. Still … what’s that money worth when you’re dead??? I hope that we don’t see this repeated in our lifetimes … there are so many high-rise buildings around the world, and no doubt some are on shaky ground … a tragedy like this is just waiting to happen elsewhere, I’d bet.

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    • I submit that if the private sector had taken responsibility, meaning the condo association paid for the work themselves and hired their own contractors, things would have gotten done faster and with better quality.

      You start of by ranting at government and conclude by implying that the owners of the property weren’t aware of the problem. I would be very surprised to discover that they weren’t. All sectors of society failed here. I believe that your belief in the inherent supremacy of private enterprise is seriously misplaced.

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      • Yes, the owners were well aware of the problem and it was the cost that delayed the repairs … condo owners weren’t thrilled to have to shell out millions of bucks (collectively) … and now look where they are. Still, government could have taken steps to force the repairs or shut the building down, at which point I suspect the owners would have decided to fork over the money.

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  7. What I read … I think in the Guardian … is that the condo never should have built EVER. It was built on “reclaimed” land … land that had been too soft for building to begin with & it was a disaster waiting to happen. Expect more of these kind of things to happen.

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    • That comes as no surprise! Potential profit always seems to take precedence over human lifes in Corporate America. That was my thought, too … look at all the other high-rise buildings within feet or yards of this one … are they any more stable?

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