THE basement of the Miami apartment block that partially collapsed flooded with up to two feet of seawater every month, an ex-maintenance manager said.
William Espinosa said the basement of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo was frequently flooded with saltwater.
Espinosa, who was maintenance manager between 1995-2000, said he could find up to two feet of seawater in the parking lot.
He told CBS: “Any time that we had high tides away from the ordinary, any King Tide, or anything like that we would have a lot of saltwater come in through the bottom of the foundation.”
Mr Espinosa explained that staff used to use pumps to try and remove the water but were unsuccessful.
The cause of the collapse remains unknown but building managers discovered a hole that could’ve been caused by saltwater intrusion, Mail Online reports.
Saltwater is corrosive meaning it can slowly damage concrete and causes rebar to rust.
He said: “The water would just basically sit there and then it would seep downward.”
It comes as a resident of sister tower Champlain Towers East shared photos of a massive crack after part of the South tower fell on Thursday.
Robert Lisman, who took photos of cracks that appeared in Champlain Towers East's garage after the collapse, said that he's afraid the tragedy will leave lingering affects on nearby buildings.
He told Local10: “I am afraid that there could be some issue in our building that will result in what we saw in Champlain Towers South.”
Residents of Champlain Towers sister building’s East and North have been given the option of moving into temporary accommodation while the structures are inspected.
Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 11 on Monday night as crews continue to trawl through the rubble.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said search and rescue operations are ongoing.
She told reporters: "We have people waiting, waiting, and waiting for news — that is excruciating.
"We have them coping with news that they might not have their loved ones come out alive and still hoping against hope that they will.
"They're learning that some of their loved ones will only come out as body parts."
Residents were reportedly told that the apartment block was in “very good shape” after structural issues were flagged in 2018.
Minutes from a board meeting held in November 2018 appear to show that Surfside building official Ross Prieto told residents that the structure was in "very good shape" – after reportedly receiving the report warning about the structural issues, according to the Miami Herald.
Prieto reportedly wrote in the email: "The response was very positive from everyone in the room. All main concerns over their forty-year recertification process were addressed.
"This particular building is not due to begin their forty-year until 2021 but they have decided to start the process early which I wholeheartedly endorse and wish that this trend would catch on with other properties."
When approached, Prieto declined to comment – citing the advice of an attorney.
He said he “didn’t recall” the email which revealed the cost estimates for the repair works.
A 2018 report flagged cracking in the parking lot of the apartment block and recommended $12million worth of repairs.
The dossier, produced by Morabito Consultants, claimed: “The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas.
“Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."
The report cited gross structural flaws of Champlain Towers South that required substantial repair of the damaged slabs.
The tragedy in Surfside has prompted mayors across Florida to recommend audits into high-rise buildings.
Fort Lauderdale mayor Dean Trantalis said the condo collapse was a "wake-up call" while Palm Beach County mayor Dave Kernon said there will be a comprehensive review of buildings.
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