1 Dead, 99 Unaccounted for in Partial Building Collapse Near Miami

Beach-side condo near Miami in Surfside, Florida partially collapses.
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A man who witnessed the devastation and was evacuated in a hotel nearby told CBS Miami “it was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The building, one of these huge buildings, gone! The whole building's gone."

A massive search and rescue is underway as 99 people remain missing and one person is confirmed dead after a high-rise building partially collapsed without warning in South Florida early Thursday morning, authorities said

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and dozens of fire rescue units rushed to the 1:30 a.m. collapse at Champlain Towers South condo, located at 8777 Collins Ave. in Surfside, a few miles north of Miami Beach, CBS Miami reported.

“Everybody was screaming and panicking,” a witness told CNN. 

Surveillance from a nearby building captured the harrowing moments when the partial collapse occurred.

Fire crews were able to rescue 35 people and two people were transported to the hospital, where one person was confirmed dead. 

Officials have accounted for 53 people who lived in the building but 99 people remained unaccounted for by midafternoon, said Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the mayor of Miami-Dade County, The New York Times reported.

Johnson said those numbers are most likely to change as the authorities figure out how many people were actually in the building overnight.

Firefighters, emergency crews and search dogs continue to search through piles of rubble, thick dust, twisted metal and remnants of the building looking for survivors. And, the building structure is still unsteady, according to multiple news reports.  

“The problem is the building has literally pancaked,”  Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis told CNN. “There is just feet in between stories where there were 10 feet. That is heartbreaking because it doesn't mean to me that we are going to be as successful in finding people alive.”

On Thursday afternoon, President Biden announced that Federal resources are being moved immediately, a report said.

“We are on top of it,” Biden said.

Barry Cohen, who was rescued from the building described the terrifying scene and said when he looked down the hallway about 75 yards he “saw nothing…just piles of dust, rubble, paint falling from the ceiling.”

Nicholas Balboa was out walking his dog when he heard a voice yelling from underneath the rubble, “Can you see me? Can you see me? He then saw an arm sticking out from under the wreckage. He said the person screamed, “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.” 

Balboa was able to alert the rescue crews that attended to the boy.

Rescue teams are working diligently to locate more survivors.

The Surfside area has a large Jewish community and ties to families from South America. Many Jewish and South American residents were reported to be among the missing, The New York Times reported.

Crews continue to work through the night searching for survivors.

Among some of those unaccounted for are the family members of the First Lady of Paraguay, Silvana López Moreira, who were reported to have lived on the 10th floor, CNN reported. 

Many of the South American consulates have been in contact. The Argentina consulate reported nine Argentinian nationals missing. The Venezuelan Consulate reported four nationals missing, CNN reported.

Earlier today, firefighters conducted a massive search in the building looking for residents. Heavy equipment was brought in to help stabilize the structure to give rescuers more access, ABC News reported. 

Truck-mounted ladders were also used to reach people who were stuck on their balconies.

Fifteen families have been relocated to hotels, the New York Times reported.

 The condo, which was built in the 1980s, was "not lowly occupied,” according to the Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett, CNN reported.

Burkett said the building manager told him the tower was almost at full capacity during the time of the collapse around 1:30 a.m. and he said the death toll would likely rise, ABC News reported

A man who witnessed the devastation and was evacuated from a hotel nearby told CBS Miami “it was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The building, one of these huge buildings, gone! The whole building's gone." 

More than 80 rescue units were sent to the location, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

Florida Power and Light said it turned off the electricity in about 400 units in the area.

The cause of the collapse is still being investigated, authorities said.

A family reunification center was set up nearby for those unaccounted for, officials said. The number of the hotline is 305-614-1819.


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