The reasons for Thursday’s tragic Surfside, Fla., building collapse remain unclear, but a 2020 study of the land around the condo complex may yield some clues.

The journal Ocean and Coastal Management published the study undertaken by Florida International University professor Shimon Wdowinski that identifies the now-collapsed building as existing on settling or sinking land.

Wdowinski told FIU News, however, that the status of the land was not likely the only cause of the tragedy.

“When we measure subsidence or when we see movement of the buildings, it’s worth checking why it happens,” Wdowinski said. “We cannot say what is the reason for that from the satellite images but we can say there was movement here.”

Wdowinski’s study found that any subsiding land was more likely to experience more serious effects of sea-level rise due to the climate crisis.

Scientists have cautioned builders about construction on shifting sands of a barrier island such as Miami Beach, a few minutes south of Surfside. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is sending a team of six to the site, according to agency spokesperson Jennifer Huergo. That could spur an investigation to guide future building codes. 

According to Surfside Vice Mayor Tina Paul, via Business Insider, the Champlain Towers South condominium, built in 1981 out of reinforced concrete, passed a roof inspection a day before its collapse. 

Raide Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue told reporters Friday that the death toll went up to four overnight, and the county’s mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, said that, while 120 people were accounted for, another 159 people were unaccounted for.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Andy Alvarez told NBC’s “Today” show Friday the rescue effort has been a “nonstop, 24-hour operation.”

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