Surfside condo collapse: 8 of the biggest structural failures in history

First-responders continued to search for survivors after a high-rise residential building near Miami Beach partially collapsed in the early morning hours Thursday.

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By Friday morning, at least four people have been confirmed a killed in the collapse but a Miami-Dade county commissioner told the media that at least 159 people believed to be in the building when the collapse happened were still unaccounted for.

What happened at the building is not yet known. But whatever caused the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South, it is part of a tragic history of events — natural and manmade — that have compromised the structural integrity of buildings and led to the loss of life.

Here are a few of the biggest structural disasters in history:

1. The Willow Island disaster (April 27, 1978): The Willow Island disaster involved the collapse of a cooling tower that was under construction at the Pleasants Power Station at Willow Island, West Virginia.

Fifty-one construction workers were working on the tower when it fell, making it likely the deadliest construction accident in U.S. history.

2. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Nov. 7, 1940): The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, nicknamed “Galloping Gertie” by construction workers, collapsed amid high winds.

The bridge was first opened on July 1, 1940. According to those who worked on the project, the suspension bridge received its nickname because of the vertical movement of the deck when there were windy conditions in the area.

On Nov. 7, 1940, the wind around the bridge was strong, causing the bridge to pitch violently and finally collapse into Puget Sound.

3. Hyatt Regency, Kansas City, Missouri (July 17, 1981): A walkway at the Hyatt Regency collapsed in the summer of 1981, killing 114 people.

The structure came down on July 17, 1981, during a Friday night “tea dance.” As couples were dancing, the fourth-floor elevated walkway collapsed, falling onto another walkway two floors down and eventually into the lounge below.

The collapse was blamed on the walkways’ anchors — 1.5-inch steel rods. The rods were to be threaded through the upper walkways, but the design was changed to a double-rod system that was anchored to the upper walkways themselves. The anchoring added undue stress to the walkways.

4. Fidenae, Italy, stadium disaster (27 AD): A stadium near Rome collapsed during a gladiator match in ancient times, killing more than 20,000 people.

What is believed to be the largest stadium disaster ever occurred during a fight to the death by gladiators in 27 A.D.

According to several accounts from the time, an amphitheater erected in Fidenae collapsed when 50,000 people filed into the hastily built stadium for the day’s entertainment.

More than 20,000 audience members fell to their deaths when the auditorium’s seating collapsed.

5. A wedding venue’s floor collapsed killing 23, injuring 380 (May 24, 2001): During a wedding in Jerusalem, the floor of the Versailles wedding hall collapsed due to weak construction methods. Witnesses described the floor as “sagging” before the collapse.

You can click here for a video from the wedding as the floor collapses. Caution — it is a graphic video.

6. Boston molasses tank collapse (Jan. 15, 1919): A tank with molasses burst, sending a 25-foot wave of the sticky material through the streets of Boston. The 2.3 million gallons of molasses was heavy enough to knock over buildings and caused the deaths of two people who drowned in the molasses.

7. Wenzhou, China, apartment collapse (Oct. 10, 2016): Several apartment buildings in Wenzhou, China, collapse, killing 22 and injuring scores.

Poorly-constructed, overcrowded apartment complexes, built by villagers and known by the Chinese government to be unsafe, fell in on themselves on Oct. 10, 2016, killing nearly two dozen people.

A 3-year-old girl was found alive as rescuers sifted through the rubble. The bodies of the little girl’s parents shielded her from the falling debris.

8. A Chinese dam system failure caused the collapse of 62 dams, including the Banqiao Dam, in Henan, China (Aug. 5-9, 1975): As Typhoon Nina hit China in the first week of August in 1975, the failure of a system of dams led to massive flooding that created the third-deadliest flood in history. Some 10 million people were affected when 30 cities and counties covering 3 million acres flooded.

The estimated death toll from the four-day event ranged from between 26,000 to 240,000 people.