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Water damage led to partial collapse of Fairfax Co. condo building

Extensive repair will be needed in a nine-story apartment building that was evacuated after the structure fell and shifted several inches.

WASHINGTON — A nine-story condominium building in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Virginia, will need extensive work after water-deteriorated columns gave way, dropping the building 2 to 3 inches.

Late Monday morning, county building inspectors gathered in front of the damaged River Towers condominium on Wakefield Drive, taking measurements and snapping photographs, as part of an overall evaluation to determine what repairs will be needed in the two inhabited wings of the building.

Fairfax County firefighters helped residents retrieve pets and other valuables from the damaged wing, which had been boarded-off after Sunday’s partial building collapse. Residents of 32 units in the most-heavily-damaged wing were displaced overnight.

One woman, who chose not to give her name, said she was distraught fearing she would be unable to retrieve her cats. After being escorted into her home by firefighters, along with three plastic carrying cages, she said she was “so grateful.”

Brian Foley, the building official for Fairfax County, told reporters Sunday that River Towers partially collapsed, because of years of water damage.

“The weight of the building just crushed them, and it came down 2 to 3 inches, and shifted over another 2 to 3 inches,” said Foley.

The entire building was evacuated for much of Sunday, but residents in most of the building were allowed to return late in the day.

However, the residents of 32 units in one of the building’s three wings have been displaced.

“At this point we don’t believe it’s going to have any further collapse, because the deteriorated part of the columns is already down to grade,” Foley said.

“The building does need to be jacked back up, and put into place,” by the building owner, Foley said.

The inhabitants of the two other wings were able to spend the night, but without gas or air conditioning.

“The deterioration of the columns was definitely caused by water, just repeated years and years of water infiltration,” said Foley. “Things rust, and the columns just weren’t maintained, and were in need of repair.”

Foley said the county would not expect to fine the building owners, but plans on being in touch this week to discuss remediation.

The building was constructed in the 1960s.

Foley said inspections of the columns in the other two wings of the building showed they will need repair.

“They are OK now, but they definitely need repair,” said Foley, who said repairs of the two remaining wings will be discussed Monday.

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