Local structural engineer discusses what may have led to deadly Florida building collapse

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Thursday’s deadly building collapse in Florida has gotten the attention of many local structural engineers.

“This is actually something we see all the time in an earthquake,” said Dr. Kit Miyamoto, the CEO of Miyamoto International Inc.

“I mean, I’ve seen hundreds of them just like the same way, you know?” he continued.

Dr. Miyamoto’s company assesses building integrity after natural disasters, a mission Miyamoto himself has a lot of firsthand experience with.

“In 2017, I was in Mexico City (for the) earthquake,” he told FOX40. “My mission was, essentially, to assist the Auburn Search and Rescue Team to get into the building safely.”

Dr. Miyamoto said he believes one of three things caused the Florida building to collapse, all of which have to do with the building’s center column.

“This is, actually, very classic failure of the central columns,” Miyamoto explained. “Columns or pillars are supporting the floors and one pillar comes off, it’s a progressive collapse. Everything comes down to it.”

First, he said there could have been corrosion from the salty sea air.

“And if that has corroded by the ocean air, it will definitely rust,” he said.

Miyamoto also said a truck or vehicle could have hit the column at the base of the building. 

But the issue could have been the result of problems with the soil underneath the building.

“If the soil settles, also the building settles with it, that could cause the failure, too,” he told FOX40.

Other structural engineers, like Ryan Kersting with the Structural Engineers Association of California, said it’s just too early to pinpoint a cause.

“We know that, in time, there will be the right amount of assessment and inspection and investigation into how this happened,” Kersting said. “But until then, it’s really just too hard to tell.”

Both Kersting and Miyamoto said earthquake requirements in California make a collapse like the one in Florida very unlikely.

“The reason is the seismic code has created more redundancy in the system,” Dr. Miyamoto said.

“If the one column comes (down), they usually can stable for a while, so you don’t see that kind of a progressive collapse like that,” he continued.

Although a collapse like the one in Florida would be rare in California, both structural engineers said it’s still important to pay attention to anything that doesn’t look right, such as cracks in the concrete.

Dr. Miyamoto also said all hope is not lost in finding survivors in Florida. He said at many of the earthquake sites he’s been to, people are still located alive in the rubble days afterward.

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