Miami-area condo collapse: 1 dead, 99 unaccounted for as search continues for survivors

·Senior Writer
·4-min read

At least one person was killed and many others were feared dead after a 12-story beachfront condo near Miami partially collapsed early Thursday, as rescuers scrambled to reach survivors.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said that 99 people remained unaccounted for, though she stressed that the figure does not necessarily mean all are missing or were in the building at the time it collapsed. More than 100 residents were accounted for, she said.

"We are all praying," Cava said. "We are all crying. We are all here with the suffering families."

A hotline was set up for anyone looking for information about family members who may have been in the building and are missing.

Video taken from a nearby surveillance camera appeared to show the moment the building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., just north of Miami Beach, around 1:30 a.m. ET.

An aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront condo that collapsed in Surfside, Fla., early Thursday.  (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Part of the 12-story oceanfront condo that collapsed in Surfside, Fla., early Thursday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

“The building is literally pancaked,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said at an early-morning news conference.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said officials were “bracing for some bad news, just given the destruction that we’re seeing.”

"It's a tragic day," DeSantis said after touring the wreckage, but added that rescuers were still searching for survivors. "They aren't going to rest," he said. "We still have hope."

About 55 of the building's 136 units collapsed, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah said, adding that heavy machinery was being used to stabilize the structure for rescue workers. Search-and-rescue dogs were brought in to aid in the search for survivors.

Nearly three dozen people were pulled from the rubble by midmorning. Two were transported to area hospitals.

Jadallah said rescue workers heard what could be banging beneath the rubble, but could not determine whether it was from people who were trapped.

At the White House, President Biden told reporters he had been briefed on the situation and had spoken to Cava, the Miami-Dade County mayor, to offer federal aid.

"We are ready to move federal resources immediately," Biden said.

A rescue worker searches the rubble for survivors with a dog after an apartment building partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla., Thursday. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
A rescue worker searches the rubble for survivors with a dog. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

It's unclear what caused the building to collapse. The condominium was built in 1981.

Appearing on NBC's "Today" show, Burkett said it looked “like a bomb went off, but we're pretty sure a bomb didn't go off.”

Work was being done on the building’s roof, Burkett added, but he did not see how that could have caused the collapse.

Barry Cohen, one of the building's residents, told the Associated Press that he and his wife were asleep when he heard what he thought was a crack of lightning. The couple went onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building’s hallway to a "gaping hole of rubble.” They were eventually rescued by firefighters using a cherry picker.

Cohen, a former vice mayor of Surfside, said he raised concerns years ago about whether nearby construction might be causing damage to the building after seeing cracks in the pavement by the pool.

A bunk bed (top right) is seen in a partially collapsed building in Surfside, Fla., Thursday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)
A bunk bed, top right, in the partially collapsed building. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Pamela Ramis, a Surfside resident who lives across the street from the collapsed building, told Yahoo News she was awakened around 1:30 a.m. when her own building started to shake. When she went outside, she saw the dust and debris and realized the building had collapsed.

“I didn’t know what to think,” Ramis said. “I thought something had exploded, a missile, I don’t know. I never imagined witnessing something like this, especially here in the U.S.”

She said she could hear the search-and-rescue dogs barking shortly after they arrived.

“I think the dogs arrived around 5 a.m., and they were barking so much,” Ramis said. “Every time I heard a bark I felt anguish because I knew they were probably finding bodies.”

Laura Ramirez-Feldman contributed reporting to this story.

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