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Champlain Towers South on June 30, 2021. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Structural engineers are honing in on the lowest part of the building for reasons why Champlain Towers South collapsed last week in Surfside, Florida, killing at least 16. 

The big picture: While experts doubt that failures with the pool deck slab alone could have caused the fall of the building, "it may be one of the factors that contributed to the collapse," Jason Borden, a Fort Lauderdale-based structural engineer, told The Washington Post.

  • A 2018 report found "major structural damage" in the building's pool deck area, caused by a concrete slab under the deck not sloped to drain properly, per the report's author.

Between the lines: Some experts say a failure at the base of the building may have triggered a "structural avalanche," per the New York Times.

  • Video footage shows the center of the building maintaining its integrity as the rest of the building begins to fall.
  • Most experts interviewed by WashPost said that the collapse appeared to involve a failure at the lowest levels of the building or in the building's parking garage.

Among the theories cited by engineers:

  • “[T]hat part of the pool [area] came down first and then dragged the middle of the building with it, and that made that collapse," Allyn Kilsheimer told The Post.
  • “You can see the failure came from the bottom,” said veteran structural engineer and the chairman of the California seismic safety commission Kit Miyamoto.
    • "Vertically imploding," suggesting that columns at the bottom were "compromised," per The Post.
  • "A foundation-related matter — potentially corrosion or other damage at a lower level,” is suggested by video footage, Donald Dusenberry told The Times.
    • "You certainly can’t rule out a design or construction error that has survived for 40 years," Dusenberry added.
  • "Punching shear failure," when slabs of concrete that make up a building's floors detach from the structure's vertical support columns, per The Post.
  • "Axial failure," which would mean columns suffered excessive stress from compression.

The bottom line: At present, “there is no smoking gun,” Troy Morgan, an adjunct professor of engineering at New York University, told The Post.

Go deeper

Death toll in Surfside condo collapse rises to 12, prosecutor to seek grand jury

Search and rescue teams, June 29 in Surfside, Fla. Photo: Joe Raedle via Getty Images

The death toll in last week's Surfside condo collapse has risen to 12, with 149 people still unaccounted for, officials said Tuesday evening.

The latest: Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she would ask a grand jury to "look at what steps we can take to safeguard our residents without jeopardizing any scientific, public safety, or potential criminal investigations."

Updated Jun 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Search for survivors of deadly Florida condo collapse enters 6th day

Search and Rescue personnel remove a stretcher from the rubble of the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida, on Monday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The search for survivors among the rubble of a Surfside, Florida, condo entered a sixth day Tuesday, with 11 bodies recovered from the partial collapse of the 12-story building and 150 people still unaccounted for.

The latest: Rescue specialists from Israel and Mexico joined American crews in the search for life using "cranes, dogs and infrared scanners," but hope was beginning to diminish Reuters notes.

Jun 30, 2021 - Podcasts

The disappearing unemployment lifeline

During the pandemic, self-employed, gig and freelance workers were eligible for unemployment benefits. Now, as states start cutting back on those pandemic-era programs, that subset of workers is about to get shut out of those benefits.

  • Plus, the latest from the Florida building collapse.
  • And, reparations via Venmo.

Guests: Axios' Courtenay Brown, Erin Doherty and Hope King.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com.

Go deeper: