An intense search and rescue effort will continue through the night after part of a 12-story residential building collapsed early Thursday in the South Florida town of Surfside, killing at least one and leaving almost 100 people unaccounted for.
About 55 of the 136 units at Champlain Towers South collapsed around 1:30 a.m., officials said, leaving huge piles of rubble on the ground and materials dangling from what remained of the structure in the beachfront community a few miles north of Miami Beach.
At least 99 people were unaccounted for as of Thursday afternoon, according to Miami-Dade Police spokesperson Alvaro Zabaleta.
At least one person died because of the collapse, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. A total of 102 people have been accounted for, she said.
Two people have been pulled from the rubble, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said, without addressing their medical conditions.
Rescuers helped pull a boy from the debris alive, a witness said, and video showed responders helping others leave the standing portions of the building, sometimes using a bucket atop a fire truck’s ladder.
State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said Thursday afternoon that emergency workers heard sounds from the rubble earlier. One of the sounds is from an individual in the parking garage area that they are having difficulty getting to, he said.
“It’s kind of hit or miss,” he said. “You get into the zone where you are so passionate and so focused and so determined to make sure you are doing everything possible to save a life in an event like this.”
Besides the two pulled from rubble, 35 others had been helped from standing parts of the building, Jadallah said.
Jadallah told reporters at an afternoon news conference that search and rescue crews were working in a parking garage area underneath the rubble.
He said teams had used search dogs, sonar and cameras on top of the rubble, but the garage has better access to the places they need to start cutting material and conduct other search measures, creating tunnels to reach any trapped people. They couldn’t find any voids in the rubble from the top, he said.
As night approached, however, some helmeted workers could be seen from a CNN affiliate WPLG helicopter on the edge of the rubble, searching the debris and moving stones, wood and mattresses.
Operations will go through the night and fresh crews will come in the morning, Jadallah said.
County Commission Vice Chairman Oliver Gilbert spoke for many with his request at a late afternoon press briefing.
“I have to implore everybody: Just pray.”
Video appears to show building sections come down
Surveillance video obtained by local Fox Sports radio anchor Andy Slater appears to show the collapse: A huge section of the building fell first, followed by another portion about nine seconds later.
A resident on the third floor, Barry Cohen, heard what he thought sounded like an explosion. His apartment was intact, but when he opened his door and tried to leave, he “looked down the hallway … and there was nothing there,” he said.
“It was just a pile of dust, and rubble,” and the building shook as he awaited rescue, Cohen told CNN’s “New Day.”
After about 20 minutes, a rescue crew used a cherry picker to help him, his wife and another resident from a balcony, he said.
Four people were taken to hospitals, and at least seven others were treated at the scene, Jadallah said.
The affected area is predominantly Jewish, and rabbis and chaplains are in the area to assist, Levine Cava said.
Levine Cava said the hotline has been set up for people trying to get information about their loved ones who may have been in the building: 305-614-1819.