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Judge: Preserving evidence key to Florida collapse probe

FILE - In this Saturday, June 26, 2021, file photo, rescue workers search in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, in Surfside, Fla. Even as the search continues over a week later for signs of life in the mangled debris of the fallen Champlain Towers South, the process of seeking answers about why it happened and who is to blame is already underway in Florida's legal system. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

A judge says preserving the evidence is critical to understanding why a Florida oceanfront condominium collapsed and to protecting the legal rights of victims and others.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said at a hearing Wednesday that evidence will be available to determine the cause of the June 24 Champlain Towers South collapse, as well as for lawsuits filed in the aftermath.

The 12-story condominium building in Surfside collapsed for unknown reasons, killing 98 people and leaving dozens more homeless.

Hanzman says the lawsuits will be combined into a single class action affecting everyone with claims, including renters who lost possessions.

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter and fill-in host at WMFE.