Chandan Khanna /AFP via Getty Images
A massive search-and-rescue operation was underway just north of Miami Beach on Thursday morning, after a 12-story residential building partially collapsed in the middle of the night.
The collapse brought scores of first responders racing to the beachfront property in the city of Surfside. Police in Miami-Dade County have confirmed that at least one person has died, with many more lives feared in danger.
Fire and rescue officials said approximately 55 apartment units were destroyed by the collapse inside the Champlain Towers South complex, a 40-year-old building that houses more than 136 units in total.
Authorities said they do not know how many people may still be missing, but rescuers have so far helped evacuate 35 people who were trapped inside the building, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Ray Jadallah told reporters. Most of the rescued were pulled from the building structure and part of the collapse, Jadallah said. Two people were saved from the rubble.
Jadallah told reporters that 10 people were treated on site, while two others were transported to local hospitals.
The collapse occurred sometime around 1:30 a.m. Video obtained by the local news station WSVN showed the building caving in on itself over a span of just 15 seconds, leaving behind tons of rubble and a massive plume of dust and debris.
JUST IN: 7News has obtained surveillance video of the moment the Champlain Towers South Condo collapsed in Surfside early this morning.
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) June 24, 2021
Images of the scene shared online show the entire side of the building destroyed with piles of rubble, wires and metal heaped alongside the east side of the complex facing the Atlantic Ocean.
“People in the intact part of the building are being evacuated now…they have been evacuated,” Daniella Levine Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, told NPR.
“What a terrible tragedy,” she said.
Cava said it was too early for investigators to know what caused the building to collapse, but said investigators were on already on the scene alongside engineers and other emergency responders.
Freddy Ramirez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said his department is serving as the lead investigatory agency into the collapse and is working with the city of Surfside. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is leading the emergency management of the site, and has set up a family reunification center roughly half a mile from the building.
This is a developing story. Some details reported by the media may later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene, and we will update as the situation develops.