British woman among 159 missing following Miami building collapse

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Watch: Four dead and 159 still missing in Miami tower block collapse

A British woman is among the dozens of people still missing after an oceanside apartment building collapsed near Miami.

US officials have said that four people have died and 159 are still missing after the 12-floor Champlain Towers South partially collapsed on Thursday.

The Foreign Office said it was supporting the family of a British woman, adding: “Our Consulate in Miami is in contact with the local authorities conducting the search and rescue operation.”

The woman has been named in reports as Bhavna Patel, a 38-year-old British and US citizen, and she, her husband and their one-year-old daughter remain unaccounted for.

Foreign Office minister Wendy Morton tweeted: “Truly tragic images from #Miami.

“British Consulate staff are in contact with the local authorities. Our thoughts are with friends and family of those who have died or still missing, and also the rescuers doing everything they can at the scene.”

Video of the collapse showed the centre of the building appearing to tumble down first and a section nearest to the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later, as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighbourhood.

About half the building’s roughly 130 apartments were affected, and rescuers used cherry-pickers to evacuate at least 35 people from the still-intact areas of the building in the first hours after the collapse.

Personal belongings could be seen amid the wreckage of the building, which was built in 1981 in Surfside, a small suburb north of Miami Beach.

Dozens of firefighters worked overnight using dogs and microphones to sift through the wreckage to reach any possible survivors.

Heavy cranes began removing debris from the pile on Friday morning with fire crews shifting smaller pieces by hand in hope of finding spots where people might be trapped.

“Any time that we hear a sound, we concentrate in that area,” said Assistant Miami-Dade Fire Chief, Raide Jadallah.

Search and rescue personnel search for survivors through the rubble at the Champlain Towers
Search and rescue personnel search for survivors through the rubble at the Champlain Towers (Miami-Dade Fire Rescue via AP)

“It could be just steel twisting, it could be debris raining down, but not specifically sounds of tapping or sounds of a human voice.”

Three more bodies were removed overnight, and Miami-Dade Police director Freddy Ramirez said authorities were working with the medical examiner’s office to identify the victims.

Eleven injuries were reported, with four people treated at hospitals.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said rescuers were at “extreme risk” going through the rubble.

She added: “Debris is falling on them as they do their work. We have structural engineers on site to ensure that they will not be injured, but they are proceeding because they are so motivated and they are taking extraordinary risk on the site every day.”

With searchers using saws and jackhammers to look for pockets large enough to hold a person, Ms Levine Cava said there was still hope of finding people alive.

Officials said no cause for the collapse has been determined.