1 killed, 51 unaccounted for in Miami building collapse; search and rescue still underway

News

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP/WJW) — The sea-view side of a beachfront condo tower collapsed in the Miami-area town of Surfside early Thursday morning, killing at least one, trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal and sending a cloud of debris throughout the neighborhood.

Scores of rescue units rushed to the partially collapsed building and firefighters were seen pulling survivors from the concrete debris.

In a tweet, Miami-Dade police said one person died in the collapse.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett warned that the death toll was likely to rise, saying the building manager told him the tower was quite full at the time of the collapse around 1:30 a.m.

Burkett said during a news conference that the building manager told him the building was substantially full.

Sally Heyman, of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, told CNN that 51 people were unaccounted for — but that some may not have been in the building at the time of the disaster. The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, and while the building keeps a log of guests staying, it does not keep track of when owners are in residence, Burkett, the mayor, said.

“The building is literally pancaked,” Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”

Ten people were treated at the scene and two were brought to the hospital, one of whom died, Burkett said. He also said 15 families walked out of the building on their own.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like this happen,” he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said officials were “bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing.”

DeSantis, who toured the scene, said television did not capture the scale of what happened.

Rescue crews are “doing everything they can to save lives. That is ongoing, and they’re not going to rest,” he said.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she got a call from President Joe Biden, who offered federal aid.

Santo Mejil, 50, told the Miami Herald his wife called him from the building, where she was working as an aide for an elderly woman.

“She said she heard a big explosion. It felt like an earthquake,” Mejil told the newspaper. He said she later called him and said rescuers were bringing her down.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue was conducting search and rescue operations, and said in a tweet that more than 80 units were “on scene with assistance from municipal fire departments.”

“We’re on the scene so it’s still very active,” said Sgt. Marian Cruz of the Surfside Police Department. “What I can tell you is the building is twelve floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”

Burkett said roof work was being done on the building, but added that roofing work goes on in other buildings and he did not see how that could have caused the building to collapse.

Teams of fire fighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.

The collapse left a number of units in the still-standing part of the building exposed. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside the damaged apartments. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.

Police blocked nearby roads, and scores of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area.

The debris from the collapse coated cars up to two blocks away with a light layer of dust.

Photos and video from the scene show the collapse affected half the tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building. The department has yet to say what may have caused the collapse.

The sea-view condo development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside, on the beach. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000.

The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. The community provides a stark contrast from bustle and glitz of South Beach with a slower paced neighborhood feel.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

FOX 8 Cleveland Weather // Quick Links:

Hot on FOX 8

More Viral