Review prompted by building collapse closes Miami courthouse

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This Oct. 8, 2020 photo shows the Miami-Dade County Courthouse in Miami. Officials say the Miami-Dade County Courthouse will begin undergoing repairs immediately after a review found safety concerns within the building. A joint statement from multiple leaders late Friday, July 9, 2021 says the review was prompted by the collapse of a condo building in Surfside. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI (AP) — The Miami-Dade County Courthouse will begin undergoing repairs immediately because of safety concerns found during a review prompted by the deadly collapse of a nearby condominium building, officials said.

An engineer’s report recommended that floors 16 and above in the 28-story courthouse be closed to staff, but all courthouse employees, including those who work on lower floors, will return to working from home, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other leaders said in a joint statement late Friday.

The announcement about the courthouse, which is in Miami, came during the third week of the search for victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in nearby Surfside. On Sunday, authorities raised the confirmed death toll from the collapsed condominium building to 90, with 31 people still missing.

The courthouse, which was completed in 1928 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, is where most civil cases are heard and contains some administrative offices. Separate courthouses for criminal, children’s and family cases are not affected.

Workers only recently returned to the building after working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Court operations will go back to a remote format until the safety concerns are addressed. The court planned to notify people with upcoming court proceedings of the changes.

“They had only been back in that building about a week,” Levine Cava said at a Saturday news conference. “So they have everything they need to continue to operate remotely and also at other locations, so it should not disrupt substantially.”

Authorities didn’t disclose details about the specific types of repairs that are needed, and they still plan to inspect its basement to determine if additional ones are required.

Miami-Dade County is in the early stages of constructing a new civil courthouse and had been planning to sell the current one, which has been beset by leaks, mold and issues with its facade over the years. It’s unclear how the new findings might affect those plans to sell the building.

The building underwent a review following the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building, where efforts are ongoing to recover the bodies of those missing and presumed dead. Levine Cava said those efforts would continue throughout the day Saturday despite bad weather, though work was paused for about an hour Saturday morning due to a nearby lightning strike. She also said no asbestos has been found during the search of the rubble.

“Please pray for all those who’ve lost loved ones and for those whose hearts are broken by this unspeakable tragedy,” she said.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said crews were making good progress, especially in clearing debris from the section of the building that didn’t collapse but was later demolished. That section will likely be cleared sooner than originally expected, he said.

“It’s astounding the pace at which they’re working in getting that rubble out of there,” he said.

Several other buildings have been reviewed to search for any structural concerns, and some — such as a condo building in North Miami Beach — have been evacuated.

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