‘I thought the building was struck by lightning’

Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 25, in Surfside, Florida.
Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue crew search for doable survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South apartment building on June 25, in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s nonetheless not totally clear what prompted an oceanfront condo tower in Surfside, Florida, to partially collapse, sending some units in the 12-story building plummeting to the floor.

Experts are nonetheless seeking to decide the actual contributing elements that led to the disaster. But from what investigators know, the building seems to have fallen in a “pancake collapse,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue District Chief Jason Richard advised CNN, although proof of different sorts of collapses are current, too. 

Pancake collapses are harmful and extreme, and their harm can complicate search-and-rescue efforts. Here’s how they happen.

About pancake collapses: Pancake collapses are so named for the approach collapsing flooring land and stack as they fall, mentioned Gregg Favre, govt director of the St. Louis Regional Response Systems, a former commanding officer with the St. Louis Fire Department and skilled particular rescue crew member.

“Pancake collapses tend to ‘stack’ floors on themselves, bringing all their weight down nearly square on the floor below,” Favre advised CNN. “This continues down, accumulating more weight and stress as the structure falls.”

A pancake collapse is a “progressive failure” that usually begins at the backside: A load-bearing factor is broken, normally in a building’s decrease flooring or basis, which triggers the prime flooring to break down vertically into the flooring beneath, mentioned Necati Catbas, a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering at the University of Central Florida. “Once there is ‘no’ support at the bottom floors or foundation, the top floors start pounding on the from top to bottom in progressive manner,” Catbas mentioned in an e-mail to CNN.

Why they’re harmful: A pancake collapse is extra harmful than different collapses, Favre mentioned, as a result of there are sometimes few voids, or pockets of area and air, in the rubble.  “The sheer tonnage of materials … makes it very difficult for void spaces to exist,” Favre mentioned.

Pancake collapses additionally complicate search-and-rescue missions, he mentioned, as a result of the buildings that stay close to the collapse web site are unstable and will fall as rescuers transfer by way of the rubble. 

Voids can nonetheless be current, although, notably when a number of sorts of collapses are current, as in the incident in Surfside, mentioned city search and rescue knowledgeable Scott Goldstein.

Goldstein advised CNN there was proof of 4 collapse varieties in the Surfside incident. Aside from a pancake collapse, that features a V-shaped collapse, when the heart of the flooring collapses and creates voids on both aspect; a lean-to collapse, when a flooring collapses on one aspect whereas the different aspect continues to be hooked up to a wall; and a cantilever collapse, when one wall supporting flooring is broken however the reverse wall is unbroken. Void areas are extra doubtless in V-shaped, lean-to and cantilever collapses.

Read more here.

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