At least 159 missing after partial building collapse near Miami

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 6:57 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021
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2:13 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Family identifies victim killed in collapse and son pulled from rubble

From CNN's Rosa Flores, Sara Weisfeldt and Hollie Silverman

The family of Stacie Fang identified her as a victim killed in the building collapse in Surfside, Florida, in a statement to CNN Friday.

Fang is the mother of Jonah Handler, who was pulled alive from the rubble, the family statement said.

"There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie. The members of the Fang and Handler family would like to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of sympathy, compassion and support we have received. The many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time," the family said in a statement.

They are asking for privacy at this time.

1:54 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

How you can help victims of the Surfside building collapse

From CNN's Ashley Vaughan

Rescue workers continue to dig through rubble and debris looking for signs of life after Thursday morning's building collapse in the town of Surfside, just north of Miami, Florida.

As families wait in agony for updates on missing loved ones, there are ways you can ensure they don't face this situation alone. Organizations are on the ground to help.

Here's how you can support them — even from miles away. To donate to some of the organizations featured click here.

The American Red Cross is helping displaced residents find safe places. The group is also offering emotional and spiritual support to the survivors. To donate click here.

World Central Kitchen is serving hot meals to the Surfside community to make sure displaced residents and rescue crews are fed as they face the unexpected.

ATJC Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center is collecting donations for individuals and families impacted by the collapse. The organization is asking for urgent items including sheets, pillows, phone chargers, and snack food.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is also responding to the crisis. To report missing loved ones, call 305-614-1819. You can also file an online missing persons report.

Residents who live within the partially collapsed tower are asked to fill out this wellness check form. For free bilingual emotional support, call 833-848-1762.

2:14 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

White House working to set up call between Biden and DeSantis this afternoon, Psaki says

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on Friday, June 25.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on Friday, June 25. Susan Walsh/AP

The White House is working on setting up a phone call between President Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the wake of the building collapse in Surfside, Florida, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“We're working to set up a call between the President and the governor that should be happening this afternoon and we'll give you all a readout of that when it happens,” Psaki said at Friday’s White House press briefing.

While Biden and DeSantis have not yet spoken since the building collapsed, the governor has been in contact with top White House officials, including chief of staff Ron Klain. Late Thursday night, DeSantis’ office requested an emergency declaration, which the White House approved, allowing for increased federal resources to help with the response.

The Republican governor has been one of Biden's biggest critics and he is widely seen inside the GOP as a top contender for the 2024 presidential race.

A Florida official familiar with the matter tells CNN that DeSantis finally agreed to ask the White House for assistance at the urging of local officials in Miami-Dade County. The emergency declaration opens the door for federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies.

Psaki said any decision on the President possible visiting Florida to survey the damage would be made in conjunction with local officials, but she has no trip to preview or predict at the moment.

Biden is expected to address the situation later on Friday. 

1:26 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

This Florida rescue crew will be assisting in the search

From CNN’s Melissa Alonso

Lynne Sladky/AP
Lynne Sladky/AP

A group of 80 firefighters will be assisting with search and rescue efforts at the collapse site in Surfside, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told local reporters.

The firefighters are members of Florida Task Force 2, known as FL-TF 2. They will be assisting Florida Task Force 1 team (FL-TF 1), which is already on scene, said Suarez.

"Florida is one of the few states in the nation that has multiple urban search and rescue teams," Suarez said.

"We have experience in 9/11, Haiti, and in [Hurricane] Dorian, most recently, so it's a very experienced team that has had success in similar situations," Suarez added.

Suarez visited the Surfside collapse scene and reunification center Friday afternoon, according to the video from CNN affiliate WFOR. 

1:12 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Emergency visas are being approved for families of those impacted by collapse, Florida senator says

From CNN’s Kendall Lanier 

Emergency visa for family members of the victims in the condo collapse are being granted and many family members have already arrived in South Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted.

At least 31 people are still unaccounted for from six Latin American countries.

Rubio also tweeted this moments ago:

1:18 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Feds sending scientists and engineers to Florida to study potential structural failures

From CNN's Pete Muntean

The Champlain Towers South condo building is seen after a partial collapse on June 24 in Surfside, Florida.
The Champlain Towers South condo building is seen after a partial collapse on June 24 in Surfside, Florida. Wilfredo Lee/AP

The federal government is sending a team of experts to Surfside, Florida, to see if Thursday’s condo building collapse should trigger a larger investigation that could impact building codes everywhere.

Six scientists and engineers are being sent from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the little-known government agency was empowered to study building structural failures and suggest over-arching changes to building codes, fire response and emergency communications.

NIST spokesperson Jennifer Huergo stressed while this team is only looking to determine if an investigation will be recommended and not the cause of the collapse, it does have subpoena power and will gather building materials that could be helpful if a full federal investigation is deemed necessary. 

“If a full investigation or study is conducted,” the agency said in a statement, “its ultimate goal would be to determine the technical cause of the collapse and, if indicated, to recommend changes to building codes, standards and practices, or other appropriate actions to improve the structural safety of buildings.” 

The team will not interfere with the search for 159 people who local authorities say are still unaccounted for, the statement said.


12:57 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Free bilingual grief counseling available in the wake of the Surfside collapse

Free bilingual grief counseling is now available to anyone emotionally affected by the Surfside condo collapse Thursday, the Mayor of Miami-Dade announced.

“Florida Blue, in partnership with New Directions Behavioral Health, is offering a free bilingual grief counseling hotline to anyone in need of emotional support following the building collapse in Surfside,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a tweet Friday.

The mayor announced there are 159 people missing in the Champlain Towers South collapse but added that the number is “fluid” and could change. Four people have died so far, according to officials. 

12:51 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Former building manager says no one ever said the building needed repairs immediately

From CNN's Curt Devine

Alexandria Santamaria, a property manager for the Champlain Towers South condo until 2019, told CNN she was never told the building needed immediate repairs during her time managing the property.

“It’s a 40-year-old building on the beach, so yes there was wear and tear,” Santamaria said. She said the condo had been preparing for its 40-year recertification process since 2019 and many engineers walked the property during the selection process. 

“No one ever said there were any signs of repairs that were needed immediately or that there [were] any signs of collapsing," she said.

Santamaria said she recalled in one of the condo meetings during her tenure as manager, “we even had officials from the city of Surfside come to the meeting and explain the process and discuss the timeline of the 40-year certification.”

She said she left in September or October of 2019. She was listed as the manager in a document notarized in April 2019, CNN confirmed.

Santamaria said the residents of the building “were very close to my heart.”

“I cared about them very much and am just devastated,” she said. 

1:09 p.m. ET, June 25, 2021

Son of missing woman says he's providing a DNA swab at family reunification center

From CNN's Hannah Sarisohn

Pablo Rodriguez speaks during an interview on June 25.
Pablo Rodriguez speaks during an interview on June 25. CNN via Skype

Pablo Rodriguez told CNN’s Kate Bolduan he’s waiting to hear about his mother and grandmother who were in the Champlain Towers South condominium building when it collapsed early yesterday morning.

Rodriguez said until he gets an official word, he doesn’t have a lot of hope.

Rodriguez said his mother and grandmother took his young son to lunch every Saturday since he was born, and his son is asking if they’re going to come tomorrow, like they do every Saturday.

Rodriguez said his son has seen the video of the building collapsing.

“He’s asking us, and right now we’re not sure what to tell him. He may understand, I don’t know if he’s processed it completely,” Rodriguez said. “We’re trying to hold off until we officially know before we make it clear to him.”

Rodriguez said the biggest question is just how this happened.

It is a building, it is not supposed to fall down, Rodriguez said.

“To get to the point where it collapsed, somebody had to have seen something, somebody had to know something,” Rodriguez said. “Buildings don't just fall down like this. Especially when they're being inspected and rebuilt. So that is the hardest thing to process, how this happened without anybody, you know, knowing something or missing something.”

Rodriguez said he was going to the community center to provide DNA to rescuers who are collecting from family members of those missing.