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Residents leave unsafe North Bay Village condo

Residents of unsafe North Bay Village condo forced to leave
Residents of unsafe North Bay Village condo forced to leave 02:54

MIAMI - Residents of a North Bay Village waterfront condominium that was deemed unsafe during a recent inspection had until Tuesday morning to leave. 

A roof drain leak at Majestic Isle condominium, which was built in 1960, caused a partial ceiling collapse earlier this month, prompting the evacuation of five of the three-story building's 36 units. After receiving the engineering report last week that found sagging floors and termite damage, North Bay Village officials announced that all of the building's 55 residents would need to leave.   

"In the wake of the Surfside situation, we are not in a situation to play with this sorta thing," said North Bay Village Mayor Brent Latham.   

The village is just a few miles from the town of Surfside, where 98 people died in June 2021 when the 12-story Champlain Towers South collapsed.

Residents have been able to move light items out of their units over the past week. 

City staff and even Latham himself turned out Tuesday morning to help more than a dozen people move to a hotel where they will stay for now.

"It's a shock for anyone, I mean if you put yourself in their situation, to find out that you have to leave your home, it's difficult," said the mayor.

For those told to leave, it's been a difficult and sad process.  

"It's been really very, very hard you know. My husband just had surgery and he cannot move things so I had to move everything by myself," said Mariela Stenson who lived there for 24 years. "I left all of the furniture, everything, all of my personal things, my pictures of my family." 

Officials didn't have a timeline for when residents would be able to return home. That question remains for residents who packed up their lives and moved in with family, friends, or hotels for those who had nowhere else to go.

"North Bay Village and the community are stepping up to help displaced residents until they can come back home," Latham said in a statement. "We are here for the affected residents for as long as they need us, to help see them through this difficult time."  

Village officials hosted a meeting Monday evening to discuss the evacuation. They also set up a fundraiser to help displaced residents.

When asked how the building could become in such a state of disrepair, the condo's HOA president Petra Bouwen said, "I'm not going to answer on repairs and what transpired or how."

When asked where the HOA funds went and why it was used for repairs, Bouwen replied, "The answer will always be the same, I am not going to comment on that." 

A telephone number listed for the condo association is no longer in service.

The Surfside disaster drew the largest non-hurricane emergency response in Florida history, including rescue crews from across the U.S. and as far away as Israel to help local teams search for victims.

Other buildings in South Florida have been evacuated amid similar safety concerns since the Surfside collapse.

The disaster focused scrutiny on the structural integrity of aging condominium towers throughout Florida, especially along its coastlines. The state has since moved to strengthen laws requiring inspections and periodic recertification of buildings.

Miami-Dade County had required the first recertification only after 40 years. The Surfside building was undergoing that recertification process when it collapsed.

New state rules signed into law last year require buildings to have their first recertification after 30 years, or 25 if they are within 3 miles of the coast, and then every 10 years thereafter.

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