Partial building collapse near Miami

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III and Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Updated 1109 GMT (1909 HKT) June 25, 2021
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5:33 a.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Florida is under a state of emergency to address building collapse

Florida remains under a state of emergency after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Thursday night to provide assistance for the families impacted by the collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside.

The declaration allows all necessary resources to be diverted to the area including law enforcement and other emergency personnel, the order said.

President Joe Biden also approved the declaration, which gave FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security the power “to coordinate all disaster relief efforts," according to a White House press release.

At least one person died in the collapse, 37 people were pulled from the rubble and at least 99 people still remain unaccounted for.

2:15 a.m. ET, June 25, 2021

More people from Latin American countries reported missing following building collapse 

From CNN en Español's Gerardo Lemos and CNN's Radina Gigova

Authorities from several countries in Latin America have confirmed that nationals from their respective countries resided or were in the building in Surfside, Florida, that collapsed early Thursday. 

Here is the breakdown:

Paraguay: 6 nationals missing, including Paraguayan First Lady Silvana López Moreira's sister, brother-in-law and their three children.

Colombia: 6 nationals resided in the building.

Venezuela: 6 nationals are missing.

Argentina: 9 nationals are missing.

Uruguay: 3 citizens are missing.

12:04 a.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Former Miami-Dade fire chief explains how rescue personnel are searching for survivors

Dave Downey, the former Miami-Dade fire chief, helped explain how first responders are searching for survivors.

What authorities are doing: Downey said the department has an "established process" for dealing with a collapse. They also have "highly trained" search personnel who are part of a national urban search and rescue team, based locally.

"They are now engaged in what we call the void search. So what they're doing is going systematically across the rubble pile looking for any indication of life."

What tools first responders are using: Downey said they're employing dogs, cameras that fit into small spaces, and listening devices.

Why rescuers aren't using big, heavy equipment like cranes: Authorities are likely worried about the structural integrity of the rubble, Downey said.

"We have part of a building that hasn't collapsed, that's unsupported. There's a lot of debris hanging off the unsupported building. And so the rescuers are in tremendous danger in some of the areas that they're working, so it has to be a very methodical process," Downey said.
11:21 p.m. ET, June 24, 2021

"We have to stay hopeful," Surfside official says

Charles Kesl, the commissioner of Surfside, said he has hope that more people can be rescued from the rubble of the partially collapsed building in his community, but "realistically, I'm not sure how many or if anyone will be recovered and found alive."

"It's possible there may not be any survivors, or many, but I remain hopeful. We have to stay hopeful at this point." Kesl told CNN. "It's a tragedy and a sad day here in Surfside."

Engineers were in the condo in previous days: Kesl said he was particularly frustrated because the building was already being scrutinized by engineers as part of its 40-year recertification process.

"That's what makes me quite upset and angry, that this catastrophe could happen," Kesl said. "While I am familiar with an assessment that was made as part of the plan to go forward with the next 40 years, there's been no indication that the building is unsound ... let alone at risk of a catastrophic collapse like this."

Kesl said authorities need to investigate the collapse, and though the process will be methodical, "time is of the essence" in case investigators find something that would require them to inspect some of the other condominiums near the coastline.

10:46 p.m. ET, June 24, 2021

"Buildings just don't fall down like this," Surfside mayor says

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. CNN

The search for survivors in the partial building collapse will continue furiously overnight, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

"Nothing else matters," he said. "We're not giving up."

It's been about 21 hours since the disaster, but Burkett said he's hopeful that first responders can still save people trapped in the rubble. Burkett said the rain may complicate efforts, but authorities will "keep going."

"In the United States, buildings just don't fall down like this," he said. "It's a catastrophe."

However, Burkett said right now is not the time to speculate or investigate the cause because authorities are laser-focused on the rescue effort.

"We've got to understand what happened here, because this is not normal. But today's not the day for that. Today's the day to try to save as many people as we can," he said.
10:23 p.m. ET, June 24, 2021

"God is with us," says Rabbi as the search for survivors continues

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

A Jewish rabbi who leads a temple just a block away from the partially collapsed condominium in Surfside, Florida tonight says he has felt the presence of God even in tragedy as rescue workers search for more than 99 unaccounted people.

"People want to know... 'why did God allow it?'" said Rabbi Eliot Pearlson, who has a number of his congregates among the missing.

"You want to know where God was?" he continued. "God was with us. God was being expressed in the love and the compassion that our community was showing for one another and that's where God is."

"God is with each and every one of us, especially when we reach out to people when they are in pain and suffering," he said. "What did I feel? I felt a tremendous amount of solace and comfort knowing that so many people care about one another... it was an amazing thing in a time of tremendous suffering." 

9:24 p.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Rescue crews using dogs, listening devices, and cameras search rubble for survivors

From CNN’s Rosa Flores and Rebekah Riess

Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs.
Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs. David Santiago/Miami Herald/AP

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue District Chief Jason Richard told CNN that as rescuers move into the rubble pile, structural engineers are working to determine which spaces are safe to go into and where additional shoring and other materials are needed to make sure the building doesn't shift or come down onto rescuers.

“So as we move through the building, we constantly monitor, making sure that there's no movement, every piece of rubble that we move, we have to take, make efforts to stabilize the building, inch by inch,” said Richard, who's helping to oversee rescue operations at the collapsed condo building in Surfside.

Richard said the search started on top of the rubble, rescuing people who were lightly trapped. Then the search moved to areas where they could hear noises, with firefighters following the noises and rescuing people calling out for help. The search then moved to the parking garage.

Richard said rescuers are using dogs from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department and Florida Task Force One, as well as listening devices to search for survivors. Crews also stop and call out into the rubble pile, listening for any sounds, tapping, or voices.

“So occasionally we'll stop all of our operations, and just have everybody go silent and listen,” Richard told CNN. “That, in conjunction with the dogs moving about the rubble pile, constantly, as well as listening devices. We have cameras that we can bore holes into slabs of concrete and put into other small void spaces in order to see around corners and in small areas also.”

According to Richard, even though it is a “pancake” collapse, as the slabs of concrete slide and move towards the ground, they do create voids.

“So we are hopeful that we will find patients in those spaces and we have identified voids and those are the areas that we're focusing our efforts,” he said.

Depending on where they are searching and the intensity of work, firefighters can be on shift for 15 minutes or less, Richard said. In the parking garage, for example, shifts are less than 15 minutes due to water, fumes, and other elements at the location.

Right now, there are about 30 firefighters in rotation doing search and rescue, according to the deputy chief.

10:01 p.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Husband has "a lot of hope" that his missing wife is still alive following building collapse

Kevin and Josh Spiegel, husband and son of missing woman
Kevin and Josh Spiegel, husband and son of missing woman CNN

Among the dozens of people unaccounted for following the building collapse in Surfside is Judy Spiegel whose husband Kevin called "an amazing person."

"They are on top of the rubble, trying to start peeling it off one by one. We have a lot of hope that Judy is still alive," Kevin Spiegel told CNN this evening. "She's an amazing person, a great grandmother, mother, wife. She's just amazing."

Alongside Kevin was his son Josh who said they have not received any updates on their mother's whereabouts yet.

"They've come and told us how many people are unaccounted for and that they have teams underground searching for people. But we don't have any other information other than that," Josh Spiegel said. "We're very proud and we're very hopeful that the community here will be able to find our loved ones. And I just want to say that my mom is an absolutely amazing person. She's a fighter and she fights for every single one of us, and we won't stop until, we won't stop fighting until we find her."

Watch here:

8:46 p.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Search and rescue operations will continue throughout the night at collapsed building site

From CNN's Jamiel Lynch and Hollie Silverman

Search and rescue operations will continue throughout the night at the collapse Champlain Towers condo building, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a briefing.

She said that 99 people are still missing and 102 people have been accounted for. One fatality has been reported.

The mayor said that firefighters are working around the clock above and below the collapse site, adding that they "are so motivated to bring people out safely and return them to their loved ones."

"As the day comes to an end, their day does not," she added. 

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz thanked first responders and said that it is still all hands on deck, with local, state and federal resources being brought in to help with the disaster.

"This is a tragedy without precedent," Wasserman Schultz said at the briefing.

Wasserman Schultz said the community is multi-cultural and they are working with families abroad to make sure they will be able to get visas processed to see their loved ones if needed.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also thanked first responders and volunteers, adding that "they are really doing a world class job."

"I can't imagine having someone I love under the rubble," he said.

Officials are planning a news conference for Friday morning at 8 a.m, the mayor said.