Would-be rescuers are conceding there is almost no chance of finding survivors trapped in the wreckage of the Florida high-rise apartment block that collapsed without warning on Friday.
The desperate search for more than150 missing residents has been made even more difficult by a smouldering fire deep within the mountain of debris that is hampering rescue efforts.
The latest complication to the massive rescue effort comes as a newly released 2018 report shows an engineer found evidence of major structural damage beneath the pool deck and “concrete deterioration” in the underground parking garage.
Three years later the 12-storey oceanfront condominium collapsed without warning as most residents slept.
Officials say they have not found any signs of life.
Despite around-the-clock work at the site in Surfside, a shore town near Miami, search-and-rescue teams had not found any additional survivors as the day waned.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told reporters rescue workers had all the people and resources needed. What they lacked, he said, was luck.on
“We don’t have a resource problem, we have a luck problem,” he Mr Burkett said. “We need a little more luck.”
The official death toll for the fallen Champlain Towers South remained at four, reflecting the only bodies recovered so far.
Officials said they still harboured a slight hope that some of the 159 people unaccounted for might be found alive but acknowledged that the odds were growing longer with every passing hour.
Aided by sniffer dogs, infrared scanning and heavy equipment, rescuers have not yet officially abandoned hope that air pockets in the debris might have kept some residents alive.
But as the fire beneath the rubble slows the rescue teams and fills the site those faint hopes too are fading.
Structural damage was no secret
The engineer’s 2018 report, released by town officials, was produced for the condominium board in preparation for a major repair project set to get under way this year.
It was not immediately clear if the damage described in the report was connected with the building’s collapse.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said officials had not been aware of the report.
Donna DiMaggio Berger, a lawyer for the condo association, said the issues in the 2018 engineering study were typical for older buildings in the area and did not alarm board members, all of whom lived there with their families.
She said the board had taken out a $US12 million ($A16 million) line of credit to pay for the repairs and asked owners to pay $US80,000 each.
Work had started on replacing the roof before the hurricane season but the pandemic had slowed the project, she said.
The engineer, Frank Morabito, warned the waterproofing below the pool deck had failed due to a major error in design. Morabito also said concrete columns, beams and walls in the garage were showing “abundant cracking”.
His firm submitted an 84-page document in April detailing a “40-year building repair and restoration” plan for the 130-unit building, with some 80 of them occupied at the time of the collapse.