SURFSIDE, Fla. — The land where the 12-story Champlain Towers South once stood intact has been sinking since the 1990s, according to a study from a Florida International University professor.
A study published in the Ocean and Coastal Management journal by Shimon Wdowinski, who is part of the university's Earth and Environment Department, claims pockets of land subsidence were determined at the building's collapse site between 1993-1999.
According to the data, the area of the devastating Champlain Towers South collapse, that has taken the lives of 4 people, was among areas where the surface was observed to be "moving down."
"There was unsual-- this pocket we saw in Surfside which was on the eastern side which is known to be the stable part of the city. Over there we didn't expect to see subsidence," Wdowinski said. "We didn't pay too much attention to that. We just did report it because that's what the data showed."
According to the study, it was unusual to see subsidence in the eastern part of the city due to buildings being built on bedrock. The more stable ground source should make the area less likely to have movement in either the buildings or the ground below it.
Wdowinski says pockets of subsidence in Miami Beach were sinking at a rate of 1-3 mm a year. Over a few decades, the FIU expert adds that movement can add up to a few inches.
"In most cases, these buildings just move and that's what we report. There's no catastrophic collapse like in the case here in Surfside, which was very unfortunate," Wdowinski added.
It's unclear at this time if the sinking of the land could have contributed to Thursday's collapse, Wdowinski notes that he believes there to be something more closely tied to engineering that caused the building to fall.
Residents of the 135 unit condominium were asleep in their beds as the building they've called home came crashing down at 1:30 a.m. Officials say about 160 people are still unaccounted for as search and rescue efforts continue to reunite families with their loved ones.
It could be weeks before the cause of the collapse is known, according to officials.
You can read the full study here.
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