Gov. Ron DeSantis said the June 24 collapse of a 12-story Surfside condominium building will change Florida in a profound way.
DeSantis called the apparent cave-in of the residential building a “unique tragedy.”
At least 46 people died, and more than 100 others are missing with the resumption of a search and rescue after Tropical Storm Elsa swept through the area earlier this week.
More than 500 first responders from across the country and state workers are at the site, searching for victims, clearing debris and gathering evidence from an incident that DeSantis said left Florida in grief and South Florida in deep agony.
“Once we get past this initial search phase, I don’t think the state’s ever going to quite be the same,” said DeSantis after a briefing on Elsa.
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There were 342 apartments in the 40-year-old Champlain Towers. Surfside has about 6,000 residents and sits on an island off Miami.
A USA Today Network-Florida review of state statutes governing the condo industry found that except for a brief window that lasted barely two years, the state has had no oversight of the condition of aging condominium buildings in nearly 60 years of condo construction in the Sunshine State.
When asked if the state needs to change that, DeSantis said the collapse raised a series of questions for investigators and state building officials.
DeSantis said it is unclear whether flaws in the structure were unique to the building, its construction or maintenance. And if so, what are the implications for new regulations and similar buildings, throughout the state.
“I think we need to get those definitive answers,” said DeSantis.
The governor said buildings like Champlain Towers are ubiquitous, or “a dime a dozen, particularly in South Florida.”
“You drive by you don’t even think twice,” said DeSantis. “I think this building had problems from the start, let’s just put it that way.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told CNN Wednesday the city will advise condominium owners what steps officials believe should be taken to assure residents their building is safe.
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee
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