Fri | Jul 30, 2021

Wing of Miami-area condo collapses; many feared dead

Published:Thursday | June 24, 2021 | 9:23 AM
This aerial photo shows part of the 12-storey oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — A wing of a 12-storey beachfront condo building collapsed with a roar in a town outside Miami early Thursday, killing at least one person while trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal. Rescuers pulled dozens of survivors from the tower during the morning and continued to look for more.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett warned that the death toll was likely to rise, saying the building manager told him the tower was quite full at the time of the collapse around 1:30 a.m.

“The building is literally pancaked,” Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn't mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”

About half of the building's 130 units collapsed, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference. Rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the wreckage by mid-morning, and heavy equipment was being brought in to help stabilise the structure to give them more access, Raide Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue said.

Earlier, Burkett said two people were brought to the hospital, one of whom died. He added that 15 families walked out of the building on their own.

Work is being done on the building's roof, but Burkett said he did not see how that could have caused the collapse. Authorities did not said what the cause may be.

Governor Ron DeSantis said officials were “bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we're seeing.”

The collapse tore away walls and left a number of homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed in what looked like a giant dollhouse. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said in a tweet that more than 80 units were “on scene with assistance from municipal fire departments.”

Police blocked nearby roads, and scores of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area. Teams of firefighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.

“We're on the scene so it's still very active,” said Sergeant Marian Cruz of the Surfside Police Department. “What I can tell you is the building is 12 floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”

The collapse appeared to affect one leg of the L-shaped tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building, and cars up to two blocks away were coated with with a light layer of dust from the debris.

The seaside condo development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000.

The area has a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. The community provides a stark contrast from bustle and glitz of nearby South Beach with a slower-paced neighborhood feel.

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