building collapse

After Fla. Collapse, Boston Building Official Says to Be ‘Vigilant, But Not Panicked'

Marc Joseph, Boston’s deputy building commissioner, said apartment residents should not be overly worried

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The stunning images coming out of south Florida were shocking to even the most veteran of building experts.

“This is more than getting struck by lightning,” said John Lojek, commissioner of Inspectional Services for the city of Newton. “This is getting struck by lightning several times in a row.”

More than half of a 12-story building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed early Thursday morning. One person has been confirmed to have died, but with nearly 100 people unaccounted for, it's feared the death toll will skyrocket before an answer is found for what caused the disaster.

The search for survivors and answers has intensified in south Florida.

Lojek’s first thought – based on how the building pancaked – was the roof.
The mayor of Surfside said there had been recent roof work done, but it’s unknown if that had anything to do with the devastating destruction.

“Did they overload the roof? Did they load all the supplies up there? Or perhaps they were changing out the air conditioning units or the compressors and the condensers and things like that,” said Lojek.

Marc Joseph, Boston’s deputy building commissioner, said apartment residents should not be overly worried.

“I like them to be alert, vigilant, but not panicked,” Joseph said.

Just last month, the city of Boston took part in a project called Building Safety Month, sending out the city’s inspectors to check for issues even before any complaints were made.

“It’s a process, you have to be at it all the time. You cannot let go, inspectors are out every day,” Joseph.

The building's collapse woke up Anastasia Mechan, a Harvard student who was just two blocks away in Surfside visiting her family.

"I thought, and everybody thought, it was thunder, and my mother said, 'I don't think it is an earthquake, there is no way there is an earthquake in Miami,'" she recalled.

Mechan said everyone woke up and walked over to see what happened, then could hear screams from those stuck in the rubble.

The 200+ volunteers at FEMA's urban search and rescue team in Beverly, Massachusetts, know how to do it all. They've seen all kinds of disasters and helped in the days following 9/11. Mark Foster walked us through what first responders in Florida are likely doing right now.

"You see the smoke, you hear the people screaming, saying, 'No, no!' … You can't even explain it in words, it is like something you have to be there to see, a war zone," she said.

Everyone in the area was in disbelief that such a large building could crumble, a feeling that hadn't gone away hours later, Mechan said. Her heart is with all those impacted, even as the full extent of the toll of this tragedy remained unknown.

"They were sleeping. Imagine going to bed and everything starts collapsing and there is no option to go out," she said.

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