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
15 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
9:03 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

"I thought that any minute, we could be that same pile of rubble," says a resident who was rescued

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

When part of his residential building collapsed, Barry Cohen knew he needed to get out of his apartment. But when he looked down the hallway, he said, "there was nothing there."

"It was just a pile of dust and rubble and paint falling from the ceilings," he told CNN.

After not being able to find a way out of the building, he says he went to his balcony, and by that time, the fire trucks and police had arrived.

"It must have been 20 minutes, it felt like a lifetime that we were still stuck in this apartment on the balcony," he said, adding that when he, his wife and another resident were rescued from the balcony of his third floor apartment.

"When we were waiting for the firetruck to approach the building, the building was still shaking. It just seemed like it was very unsteady. And I just, you know, knowing how what it looked like outside my door, I thought that any minute, we could be that same pile of rubble."

Cohen, who lived in that apartment for three years, said he prayed while he was waiting to be rescued.

"I thought the whole building was going to just collapse. So once we were in the cherry picker, a feeling of relief just came over me that was incredible that I survived this tragedy," he added.

Watch the interview:

8:29 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

At least 11 streets closed due around the site of collapse in Surfside, Florida

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Miami-Dade Police are asking residents to "expect heavy traffic delays in the area and seek alternate routes" following the building collapse in Surfside, Florida. 

"Collins Avenue from 85th to 96th Street has been temporarily closed due to the #SurfsideBuildingCollapse," police said in a tweet.

Miami-Dade Transit advised travelers to expect significant delays to routes from the area, they said in a tweet.

Florida Division of Emergency Management tweeted Thursday morning that "the state is standing by to provide assistance, as needed."

8:31 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Mayor says a collapse like this is "less likely than a lightning strike"

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the cause of the collapse has not yet been determined, but a collapse of this nature is “less likely than a lightning strike.” 

“There is no reason for this building to go down like this unless someone literally pulls out the supports from underneath, or they get washed out, or there is a sinkhole, or something like that because it just went down,” Burkett told told CNN affiliate WSVN. 

He said that the building was built in the 1980s.

The mayor said it is unclear how many people are missing, but estimated at least 30 units may have been impacted. 

Burkett told the affiliate that dogs were deployed in the middle of the night, but in the very dangerous and dark conditions, “they did not get any hits.” 

8:23 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Surfside mayor says they're worried the rest of the partially collapsed building could fall, too

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. Source: WSVN

The Mayor of Surfside, Florida expressed concern Thursday that the part of building that is still standing may collapse, too.

“We are afraid the building may be in danger of additional collapse,” Mayor Charles Burkett told CNN affiliate WSVN. 

“The problem is the building has literally pancaked. It has gone down and I mean, there’s just feet in between stories where there were ten feet. That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean to me that we are going to be successful, as successful as we want to be to find people alive,” Burkett said. 

Burkett praised the firefighters and first responders for continuing their efforts despite the fact the building may collapse.  

“Those guys, those guys deserve all of our respect and credit and anything else we can give them because they are real heroes,” Burkett said.

8:17 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Eyewitness describes the moment he found a boy alive in the rubble

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Nicholas Balboa was walking his dog near his home in Surfside, Florida, when he “felt the ground shake, felt like an earthquake.” When he got to the site, he found a building partially collapsed.

Just when he thought it was hard for anyone to survive the chaotic scene, he heard a cry for help.

“I was thinking to myself, 'how could anybody survive this?' As I was thinking that, I heard a voice yelling,” Balboa said, adding that as he got closer, he saw the boy “sticking his hand up through the debris."

"And I could see his hand and fingers wiggling," he said.

Balboa said he and another person climbed up the rubble to help, and then found police and firefighters to help.

“So then they began their efforts to get him out. It was him and his mother. We could hear him. We could see him clearly. His mom, we weren't able to see, we weren't able to hear her, so I don't know what her status is, but god willing, she's OK.”

The boy was under his bed frame and mattress, Balboa said. 

“He was obviously sleeping,” he said. “I can only imagine how many people were in their apartments either sleeping or watching TV or just whatever, just living their lives, unbeknownst to them the building was about to break away," he said.

Describing the scene of the collapse, Balboa said, “it was almost out of a horror movie. I have no idea if it wasn't for us — myself and the other gentleman — being on the back side of the building and as quiet as it was, I have no idea how long it would have been until they found him.”

Watch the interview:

7:57 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Surfside mayor: "This is a catastrophic failure of that building"

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos 

The mayor of Surfside, Florida, said the building that partially collapsed overnight “pancaked” as it fell.

“Apparently when the building came down it pancaked, so there’s just not a lot of voids that they are finding or seeing from the outside,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said on NBC’s “Today Show.”  

Burkett said two people were transported to hospital, one of whom was later declared dead. He added that 15 family units are currently at a community will be relocated to hotels shortly. 

The mayor said the search-and-rescue effort began shortly after 2:00 a.m. ET and continues through the morning with dogs. 

“The dogs have been going over the debris and just tragically there haven’t been any hits for the dogs and that’s a great disappointment,” Burkett said. 

When asked if all units in the building were occupied, the mayor confirmed the building “was not lowly occupied.”

“I think there were quite a few people in there,” he said. 

As to the cause of the collapse, the mayor noted there was roof work going on but did not think that was related to the collapse. 

“This is a catastrophic failure of that building,” Burkett said. “It looks like a bomb went off but we are pretty sure a bomb didn’t go off.” 


7:24 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Here's an aerial look at the collapse site

Here is an aerial look at the area after a residential building partly collapsed early Thursday in Surfside, Florida.

The footage shows files of debris and rubble:

7:21 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

"My prayers are with those impacted," Miami-Dade County mayor tweeted

Daniella Levine Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, tweeted about the partially collapsed building, saying she is praying for those impacted and for the first responders who are "working to save lives."

Here's her full tweet:

7:26 a.m. ET, June 24, 2021

Strong storms moving toward collapse site could impact search-and-rescue efforts

From CNN's Judson Jones

A line of showers and storms is heading westward toward the coastal Miami Metro area, which could impact search-and-rescue activity around the building collapse in Surfside, Florida. 

This activity should move over coastal areas in the next 30 minutes or so when localized flooding and brief gusty winds could occur.

Continued showers are possible through the morning hours, and once the sea breeze kicks in, the rain should move further inland today.