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Crestview Towers Residents Get 15 Minutes To Retrieve Essential Items From Evacuated North Miami Beach Condo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Some residents shed tears Friday as they were allowed to return to Crestview Towers, their evacuated building for 15 minutes and retrieve belongings.

"This is just too much for me," said an emotional Vanessa Figueroa as she was allowed to return to the 4th floor and pick up some blankets, shoes and clothing from the apartment she shared with her fiancé and mother and father at the 10-story, 156-unit Crestview Towers.

They are now living with her sister.

Figueroa told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "Other people's lives are going on," she said as tears rolled down her face. "I don't want to cry because we have to get out of here and our home and we have everything in there. I'm living with my sister and she doesn't have much space. I will never return here. This has been too hard on us. We have not been able to get our valuable stuff like furniture and TVs and we want to move out and never go back to this building and start another life in another place. Fifteen minutes was not much time to get what we needed."

"We have heard a lot about the building and the city and the condominium association board but nobody is talking about us, the residents," said Figueroa.

North Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Rand told D'Oench that police helped more than 110 families from the building between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Chief Richard Rand personally escorted members of 12 families to their apartments.

"I am involved with my troops. I lead from the front. If I have somebody doing this, I am going to be out there doing it. It is not about me. It is not about the police department. It's about the people standing out here who have lost their homes. That's why I am here. If this happened to my family, I would want my local officials, my local police to get involved like this," Rand said.

Resident Yang Dai said, "I was able to get some clothes, paperwork and some medicine." One resident named Victor said, "I was able to get my aquarium, food and medicine."

His friend Isaac Grinburg said, "I got a little bit of food. This has been very hard. Every day you don't know."

Another resident named Barbara said, "I am going to get my husband's medication and some clothes. It is very hard right now. Because I paid $1,600 a month and you know rent is not $1,600 because I had 3 bedrooms and a bath."

Some Residents said they are staying with friends and family members. The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust is helping 55 families.

Resident Gustavo Mata returned to his apartment with two wagons with him.

"It's like being homeless," he said. "You know you wake up today and tomorrow you are homeless like that's what I feel."

Rosy, another resident, said, "I am trying to get most of my clothes, my memories, my jewelry. It's really sad leaving all my stuff behind. It is really scary."

Residents were forced to evacuate last Friday after an audit of high-rise buildings 40 years or older and after the City expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the building. The City Manager said he took action after the city learned of a report from January from an engineer who said the building has structural and electrical issues.

Crestview Towers is located at 2025 N.E. 164th St. and is five miles from the Champlain Towers South condo complex that partially collapsed on June 24th.

The City says the building will remain closed until a new 40-year recertification report has been submitted that addresses all structural and electrical issues.

An engineer hired by the Condominium Association Board said the building would be safe to live in while repairs were being made. That was the conclusion of two reports. But the city rejected the reports. Records indicate the building faces $500,000 in fines for illegal construction, electrical problems, and 18 violations of the Miami-Dade fire code.

New photos from the engineer's report show corrosion and columns, slabs, joints, balconies and the roof needing concrete restoration.

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