SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — A beachfront condo building partially collapsed outside Miami on Thursday, killing at least one person and trapping others in the tower that resembled a giant fractured dollhouse, with one side sheared away. Dozens of survivors were pulled out, and rescuers continued their desperate search for more.
Around 1:30 a.m., a wing of the 12-story building in Surfside collapsed with a roar, authorities said, raising fears that the death toll
could rise dramatically. Officials did not know how many people
were in the tower when it collapsed.
@CBSMiami pic.twitter.com/kaOoBuJG1M — Frances Wang (#FrannyInMiami) (@FrancesWangTV) June 24, 2021
“The building is literally pancaked,” Surfside Mayor
Charles Burkett said, “which is heartbreaking because it means we won’t be as successful as we hoped in finding people alive.”
In another case, rescuers saved a mother and child
, but the woman's leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble, according to Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade emergency management.
A boy has been rescued from the rubble of a building collapse
in Surfside, Florida
, near Miami Beach
. Hundreds of first responders are currently on the scene. The rescue operation is ongoing at 8777 Collins Ave. pic.twitter.com/Hnq7Gd9QW4 — Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) June 24, 2021
A video showed fire crews removing a boy from the wreckage, but it was unclear if he was the same person mentioned by Rollason. Teams were attempting to enter the building through a parking garage beneath the structure.
Gov. Ron DeSantis
, who toured the scene, said television
did not adequately depict the magnitude of what occurred.
Rescuers are “doing everything they can to save lives, and they are not going to stop,” he said.
Teams of 10 to 12 rescuers entered the rubble with dogs
and other equipment at a time, working until they were tired from the heavy lifting and then making way for a new team, according to Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, the state's fire marshal.
and fire agencies from across Miami-Dade County are assisting the Town of Surfside at a partial building collapse located at 8777 Collins Avenue in Surfside, Florida. Please follow @MiamiDadeFire for updated information. pic.twitter.com/8tORIfZfjY — Miami Beach Police (@MiamiBeachPD) June 24, 2021
“They’re not going to stop just because it’s getting dark,” Patronis told Miami television station WPLG, adding that they might take a different route.
The image of a bunk bed near the now-exposed top of the building moved Patronis deeply.
“Someone was probably sleeping in it,” he speculated, “and there are so many what-ifs.”
Authorities did not say what caused the collapse, but video footage captured from nearby indicated that the center of the building fell first, with a section closest to the ocean
teetering and collapsing seconds later as a massive dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.
Work was being done on the building's roof, but Burkett said he couldn't see how that could have been the source of the problem.
Off camera, this Champlain Towers resident tells me, "I lost a lot of friends- part of the building is pancaked." @MiamiDadeFire sent *80* units to #miamibuildingcollapse in what is shaping up to be a horrific @NBCNews pic.twitter.com/AMyq1Fc5Gc — Sam Brock (@SamBrockNBC) June 24, 2021
If federal assistance is requested, President Joe Biden
has promised to provide it.
Hotels have opened up for some displaced residents, according to the mayor, and deliveries of food
, medicine, and other necessities are being arranged as quickly as possible.
At least 35 people had been rescued from the rubble by mid-morning, and heavy equipment was being brought in to help stabilize the structure to allow for more access, according to Raide Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue.
The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, and while the building keeps a guest log, it does not keep track of when owners are present, according to Burkett.
Fortuna Smukler shared information about the disaster on Facebook
in the hopes that someone would know where Myriam Caspi Notkin and Arnie Notkin, an elderly couple who lived on the third floor, were.
According to Smukler, a North Miami Beach commissioner who is friends with Myriam Notkin's daughters, Arnie Notkin taught physical education
at a local elementary school for years.
“He was such a well-liked P.E. teacher from people’s past,” she said, adding that “everyone has been posting, ‘Oh my god, he was my coach.’”
“If they are found alive, it would be a miracle,” she added.
Nicholas Fernandez, of Miami, spent hours after the collapse trying to contact two friends who were staying in the building with their young daughter. The family
had come to the United States
to avoid the COVID-19
outbreak in their home country of Argentina, according to Fernandez.
“The hope is that someone hears the call, because I know there are dogs inside,” he said. “I know what I'm saying may sound ridiculous, but there is always hope until we hear otherwise.”
According to officials in those countries, a total of 22 South Americans were missing as a result of the collapse: nine from Argentina, six from Paraguay, four from Venezuela, and three from Uruguay.
The collapse, which appeared to affect one leg of the L-shaped tower, ripped away walls and ripped open some homes in the still-standing part of the building, revealing beds, tables, and chairs inside. Air conditioners hung from some parts of the building, where wires dangled.
Barry Cohen, 63, said he and his wife were sleeping in the building when they heard what they thought was a thunderclap. They went onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building's hallway to find "a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around."
“I couldn't walk out past my doorway,” Cohen, the former vice mayor of Surfside, explained.
Surfside City Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told WPLG that the building's county-mandated 40-year recertification process was ongoing, and that it was expected to go smoothly. A building inspector was present on Wednesday.
“I really want to know why this happened,” Salzhauer said. “... And can it happen again? Are any other of our buildings in town in jeopardy
The seaside condo development was built in 1981, and there were a few two-bedroom units for sale, with asking prices ranging from $600,000 to $700,000. The neighborhood feel is a stark contrast to the glitz and bustle of nearby South Beach.
The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums, and hotels, with restaurants
and stores serving an international mix of residents and tourists. The main oceanside drag is lined with glass-sided, luxury condominium buildings, but more modest houses are on the inland side. Snowbirds, Russian immigrants, and Orthodox Jewish
families are among the neighborhood's residents.
This story was contributed to by Associated Press
writers Tim Reynolds and Ian Mader in Miami, Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale
, Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama
, and R.J. Rico in Atlanta