An intense search and rescue effort is underway after part of a 12-story residential building collapsed early Thursday in the South Florida town of Surfside, killing at least one and leaving dozens 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 and materials dangling from what remained of the structure in the beachfront community a few miles north of Miami Beach.
At least one person died because of the collapse, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday afternoon.
Two people have been pulled from the rubble, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said, without addressing their medical conditions.
Rescuers helped a boy from the debris alive, a witness said, and video showed responders helping others leave the standing portions of the building early Thursday, sometimes using a bucket atop a fire truck’s ladder.
“We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters near the scene Thursday afternoon. “The state of Florida, we’re offering any assistance that we can.”
Besides the two pulled from rubble, 35 others had been helped from standing parts of the building, Jadallah said.
At least 51 people were unaccounted for as of around 10 a.m., having been reported missing to the county’s emergency reunification hotline, Miami Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman told CNN.
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.
Besides two people who were taken to hospitals, 10 were assessed and treated at the scene, Jadallah said.
The cause of the collapse wasn’t immediately known. The building was undergoing roof work, but it’s not known whether this was a factor in the collapse, Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett said.
It was built in 1981, according to online Miami Dade property records.
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.