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As rising seas erode buildings, it’s getting riskier to live on the coast

As rising seas erode buildings, it's getting riskier to live on the coast

MIAMI – Samuel Schrager looks out on the parking lot of his condo that was built in 1967. After a week of afternoon downpours amid hurricane season, it's flooded. Again.

Signs of climate change are everywhere, he says. Even on some sunny days, he can't get to parts of the barrier island where he lives because they are underwater.

"It's here, it's real," said Schrager, 72, president of the condo association at the Keys Biscayne building where his family has owned a unit for five decades.

Long before the horrific collapse of Champlain Towers South, which authorities so far say killed 64 people with 76 still missing, Schrager encouraged his neighbors to fix up their aging building to mitigate the impact of climate change.

"You have salt, you have sea level rise, which is impacting the foundations of these buildings," said Schrager. "In our building, we have been proactive, but I don't have eyes that can see underground."

While the cause of Champlain Towers South is not yet known, experts say a combination of factors likely contributed to the failure. In South Florida, where the sea is almost 5 inches higher than it was in 1993, they say climate change is undoubtedly on the list.

Engineers and scientists who study the changing environment say whether or not the Champlain collapse ends up having a direct link to global warming, future problems with coastal buildings are assured.

"If you want to live in coastal areas, there's a risk. And that risk is getting riskier because of sea level rise," said Zhong-Ren Peng, a professor of design, construction and planning at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

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