The Miami condo collapse is a devastating reminder of America's artificial land problem

Big chunks of American cities are built on man-made land that is a climate catastrophe waiting to happen

The Miami condo collapse.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

A condo complex in south Florida partly collapsed out of nowhere Thursday morning. At time of writing, at least four people are confirmed dead and 159 others are still missing — making it likely one of the worst building collapse disasters in American history.

It is not yet known for certain what caused the collapse, but one probable culprit was the fact that the building had been built on reclaimed wetland, and as a result, had been sinking into the ground for decades. Scientist Shimon Wdowinski happened to study the area last year, and found that the building (which was built in in 1981) had been sinking at the rate of about 2 millimeters per year back in the 1990s. Even if some other factor was the proximate cause, the sinking surely made it worse — a building in such a situation can easily develop cracks in its foundation or other problems that compromise its structure.

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