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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11:23 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Witnesses say “everybody was screaming and panicking” as they tried to evacuate

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Witnesses of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, which partially collapsed Thursday, said as they were trying to evacuate the adjacent building, “everybody was screaming and panicking.“ 

Aaron Miles, his girlfriend, and members of their family were staying next door at the Bluegreen resort which has been evacuated. He said, “once you got down to the lobby… it was filled with nothing but dust and debris." 

Abigail Crosby said they quickly grabbed the five children who were staying with them and evacuated, “whatever I had, I took.” 

We “got out as fast as we could,” Miles said. The group went downstairs to the parking garage basement where a valet let them out. 

Miles said that immediately following the collapse people were running around screaming.

“It was awful. Kids, grownups screaming. Women and children crying. It was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve ever witnessed in my life," Miles said.

The family, who is on vacation from Virginia, said everything seemed normal yesterday. 

Miles said, “yesterday, the building seemed normal and nothing seemed off, and then like I said we woke up and the building was just gone."

11:06 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

A thunderstorm has paused rescue operations, county official says

Search and rescue personnel with a K9 unit work in the rubble of a 12-story residential tower that partially collapsed on June 24, in Surfside, Florida. 
Search and rescue personnel with a K9 unit work in the rubble of a 12-story residential tower that partially collapsed on June 24, in Surfside, Florida.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Crews on rescue and recovery operations at the partially collapsed building are "in pause mode because we have a thunderstorm that has managed to come ashore," Miami Dade County, Florida, Commissioner Sally Heyman tells CNN.

She said crews have completed searching and are now shifting to recovery efforts. She said fire rescue and first responders have gone entirely through the building that did not fall, and the part that was partially compromised.

10:54 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

White House and FEMA are in contact with local officials after building collapse

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

The White House is monitoring the situation in Surfside, Florida, after part of a 12-story residential building collapsed early Thursday, killing at least one person and sparking an intense search and rescue effort, a White House official tells CNN. 

“The White House and FEMA are in contact with local officials to provide assistance if needed,” the official told CNN in a statement.

“Our hearts go out to the loved ones of those who lost their lives as a result of this terrible tragedy, and to the families who wait in anguish as search-and-rescue teams assess the situation. We send our gratitude to the heroic first responders working tirelessly to save lives this morning,” the official continued.

The White House would not say whether President Biden has been briefed on the collapse.

10:53 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

"This shouldn't happen": Neighbor says families and elderly people lived in building that collapsed

From CNN's Elise Hammond

It sounded like loud bang, almost like thunder, but no lightning or storm followed after. That is how Fiorella Terenzi described the moment a building next door to where she lives partially collapsed in the middle of the night.

"This rumbling was very different, very strange. And something was not right in this sound. It was too strong, too violent. It almost felt like a shock wave coming from the next building," she told CNN on Thursday.

She said she went outside on her balcony and saw dust in the air, saying the scene was "dramatic."

"That is when I realized that something is not right, and right away I went downstairs," she said.

Terenzi said she was familiar with the people who lived in the building. She said most of them live and work in Miami. She would see families and older people outside on their balconies or on the beach.

"I see them on the balcony outside sipping a coffee, doing yoga, doing some exercise. I see elderly people who walk even on the balcony walking around, doing some stretching. So I know these people," she said.

"This shouldn't happen. It doesn't make sense that a building where people live peacefully – family and children – in the middle of the night crumble. It doesn't make sense," she added.

CNN's Layla Santiago reports:

10:43 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

51 people assumed to be living in collapsed building are not accounted for, commissioner says

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman said, as of right now, 51 people who were assumed to have been living in the partially collapsed part of the building have not been accounted for.

Heyman told CNN those people have "not either called out or had people call in to reach them."

Emergency officials are asking people to call 305-614-1819 to report that they are safe or for family members to report their relatives missing.

The commissioner said it is not clear if all 51 people were in the building when it fell because of "vacations or anything else, so we're still waiting and unfortunately the hope is still there, but it is weaning."

Heyman said crews have completed searching and are now shifting to recovery efforts. She said fire rescue and first responders have gone entirely through the building that did not fall, and the part that was partially compromised.

"The rest of the search and rescue efforts has been done by man power on the outside, search on the barrier quarters, also with drones and with dogs. It has shifted now or started to shift to recovery," she said.

She said about 40 people have been evacuated, according to their records. Some of them were helped by other people, she said.

But, Heyman said crews are in "pause mode" right now because of a thunderstorm that has moved into the area.

10:50 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Surveillance video purports to show moment Florida building collapsed

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

New video, obtained by a local Fox Sports radio anchor, appears to show the moment that a condo building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed early Thursday morning. 

In the video, obtained by Fox Sports 640 South Florida's talk show host Andy Slater, it purportedly shows the building collapsing first from the middle.

The front, and back of the building appears to remain standing. Nine seconds later, the back of the building begins to collapse.


10:22 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Florida governor: We are bracing for some bad news

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Source: WFTS

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said local and state officials are hoping for additional rescues from the Surfside collapse but, "we are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we're seeing."

DeSantis thanked first responders during a news conference in Tampa Thursday morning.  

"The quick response was very important and I do think it saved lives," DeSantis said. "I want to thank the folks for their bravery in doing that," the governor continued.

DeSantis said he has spoken to the Surfside, Florida, mayor and local officials and dispatched emergency response personal to the area to assist. 

The governor said he will be traveling to South Florida later today. 

9:58 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Search and rescue process could take a week, Surfside town manager says

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Surfside Town Manager Andy Hyatt told reporters Thursday that the search and rescue effort at Champlain Towers South could take a week. 

“This is not something that is going to be brief. It’s going to be something that is for the long term and possibly at least a week,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt said the town has been in touch with both US Senators from Florida, the governor and the county mayor. He said they are “very appreciative” of the support they are getting.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Ray Jadallah said they have moved in heavy equipment to assist in the effort. He said firefighters and first responders are working to shore the building up from the inside and they continue to “tunnel in to locate additional survivors.” 

Jadallah said the search and rescue effort is ongoing.

9:50 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Here is what we know so far about the building that collapsed

A residential building in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed early Thursday. Here is what we know about the building so far:

  • The building is located at 8777 Collins Avenue, a few miles north of Miami Beach.
  • It was built in the 1980s, according to the Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett, and was "not lowly occupied."
  • The building has 12 stories and had 136 units. About 55 apartment units collapsed, according to Ray Jadallah of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.