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Society

Miami Beach Building Evacuated Over Concrete Safety Concerns

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Residents of an 82-year-old, two-story apartment building in Miami Beach have been ordered to evacuate because of concrete deterioration nearly three weeks after the deadly collapse of Champlain Towers South in nearby Surfside.

The city of Miami Beach ordered the evacuation of Devon Apartments on Monday and is giving residents until next Monday to leave the building, city spokeswoman Melissa Berthier said in an email Wednesday.

The apartment building is about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from where Champlain Towers South collapsed almost three weeks ago, killing at least 95 people. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the 12-story oceanfront tower to fall. The building was in the midst of its 40-year recertification, and documents show multiple problems with concrete deterioration had been reported. The homeowner's association was in the process of making $15 million in repairs when the building collapsed.

After the collapse, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava ordered an audit of all buildings over 40 years old. A condominium in nearby North Miami Beach was also ordered evacuated over safety concerns shortly after that audit started.

During a news conference Tuesday, Levine Cava said the number of people considered missing in the collapse has dwindled as authorities work to identify everyone connected to the building. The mayor said 14 people remain unaccounted for, which includes 10 victims whose bodies have been recovered but not yet identified — leaving potentially four more victims to be found.

"It's a scientific, methodical process to identify human remains. As we've said, this work is becoming more difficult with the passage of time," Levine Cava said, adding that it is "truly a fluid situation."

The collapse left officials around the county grappling with concerns about older residential buildings. 

Manny J. Vadillo, an attorney who represents the owners of the Devon Apartments, told WTVJ that they have worked "diligently" with the city since deciding in May to demolish the building by December. 

He said they have started to "vacate the building in an orderly fashion," adding that 14 people remained inside. He said the owners are helping residents move.

"My clients are extremely sensitive to safety and, in fact, visited the property several times since last week to speak with tenants when communications started with the city to ensure tenants were not caught by surprise," Vadillo said. "Some tenants have been there many years."

Resident Esmart Romero told WSVN that he was not surprised the city deemed the building unsafe.

"If you look at the condition of this apartment, it's not good," Romero said. "You get what you pay for."

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