Puerto rico government

Team of specialists sent to South Florida to investigate collapse

WASHINGTON (AP) – A half-dozen scientists and engineers specializing in catastrophic structural failures are heading to South Florida to gather first-hand information about the cause of the catastrophic collapse of Champlain Towers South.

Their initial work will be used to determine whether a further study is warranted.

The first two members of the team arrived in Florida on Friday and four more will be there by Monday, said Jason Averill, an official at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This agency also investigated disasters such as the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, the Joplin, Missouri in 2011, tornadoes and the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Averill said the team will collect information over the next week to decide whether further investigation is warranted. The team’s goal is to help determine the cause of the collapse and suggest future measures to prevent another such disaster. He said the team would avoid hampering efforts to rescue trapped residents and disaster response teams.

Earlier investigations have sometimes lasted a few years or more and resulted in in-depth recommendations on what to do next, he said. Averill is the head of the institute’s materials and structural systems division.

The “experts will work with federal, state and local authorities to identify and preserve materials that could be useful in understanding why the collapse occurred,” said Jennifer Huergo, a spokesperson for the agency.

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