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Nearly 100 unaccounted for after deadly high-rise collapse in Florida

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At least 99 people were unaccounted for after portions of a high-rise condo building north of Miami Beach collapsed early Thursday, killing at least one person, officials said. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 102 people have been accounted for so far. 

The 12-story building, called Champlain Towers South, collapsed just after 1:30 a.m. local time. It's not yet clear why the building collapsed — but when the dust settled, the building appeared to be sheared in two, with bunk beds, dining rooms and entire homes left blowing in the wind.

Rescue teams are tunneling below the building in a race against time to find survivors, but officials said it is still too dangerous to send searchers on top of the pile. Hundreds of first responders are on the scene, and President Biden is promising federal aid.

Multiple people were hospitalized, officials said. Ten people were treated at the scene of the huge pile of rubble, according to Ray Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire & Rescue. 

 

Officials say they're working "around the clock" on search and rescue efforts

Officials tried to reassure families of the missing in a press conference Thursday night, praising the skill of the search and rescue team and promising to work "around the clock" to find anyone who may be trapped in the rubble. 

Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the incident a "tragedy without precedent in the USA," and Senator Marco Rubio said he "can't imagine having someone that I love under the rubble." 

The officials did not provide any new details about the victims, reiterating that one person had died, 99 are missing and 102 have been accounted for.

By Victoria Albert
 

Engineers searching for clues about collapse

It isn't yet clear what caused the collapse, but engineers are looking for clues. One study from a researcher at Florida International University found that the building, constructed 40 years ago on reclaimed wetlands, has been sinking at a rate of two millimeters per year for the last three decades, which may have impacted the building structurally. 

The town of Surfside requires multi-family buildings, like this 136-unit property, to be recertified every 40 years. The process involves electrical and structural inspections of the foundation, beams, columns, slabs, and the roof, where work was happening. Those inspections were underway for the building but not yet completed. 

By Mark Strassmann
 

Families of the missing face excruciating wait for answers

Families of those missing have been arriving since before dawn, when word of the horrific collapse first broke. People are hoping for any sliver of information about people like Rayond and Mercedes Urgelles, both 61, and Brad Cohen, whose relatives said they have checked all the local hospitals but have come up empty. 

Yuby Pettengill is praying her nephew is still alive. "You never lose hope and I…I'm not losing my hope," Pettengill said.  

Nicolas Fernandez said his calls to his loved ones who are missing have gone unanswered. 

"I think they're gone," he said. "I don't want to be pessimistic, but we've been calling them non-stop with no reply." 

Two children, whose mother Judy was in the building, said they are holding out hope that she's alive. 

"She was the best. Our best friend," one said through tears. "I can't live without her." 

— Manuel Bojorquez contributed reporting.  

Rescuers scour rubble for condo collapse surv... 02:18
By David Begnaud
 

Surveillance video shows moment of building's collapse

The building fell while most were asleep, but surveillance video captured the moment part of the 12-story structure collapsed into a pile of rubble. The video shows the building folding in on itself in a matter of seconds. 

Indoor surveillance footage appeared to capture the moments before the deadly collapse. 

Officials say 55 of the 136 apartments collapsed on the northeast side of the building. 

By Manuel Bojorquez
 

Search crews work to locate victims in parking garage

Search teams are working to locate possible victims in the fallen structure's basement parking garage while navigating "heavy damage and changing conditions." A video shared on social media by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue shows rescue crews in tall waters with limited light. 

By Tori B. Powell
 

Multiple Latin American countries say their citizens are among the missing

The consulates of multiple Latin American countries said Thursday that some of their citizens remain unaccounted for. 

Argentina reported nine missing people; Colombia and Paraguay reported six; Venezuela reported four and Uruguay reported three. 

By Victoria Albert
 

First responders begin searching under rubble

Search teams have shifted operations from inside the building to under the rubble, according to Ray Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire & Rescue.

Sonar devices, engineers, K9's and teams of 60 to 70 firefighters are investigating the scene. A small fire was discovered and extinguished within 20 minutes. 

Jadallah said that operations will continue throughout the night. 

"This process is slow and methodical," he said. 

By Tori B. Powell
 

102 people have been accounted for

102 people have been accounted for and at least 99 people are still unaccounted for after the building collapse, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference.

Families at a reunification center are being briefed on who is and isn't accounted for, the mayor said.

Levine Cava said she has signed an emergency order and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has this order at his desk. 

By Tori B. Powell
 

"We are ready to move the federal resources immediately," Biden says

Biden speaks on Florida building collapse 01:40

President Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is on the ground in Florida assessing the situation in Surfside and he is ready to declare a state of emergency for the collapse if Governor Ron DeSantis wants him to.

"We are on top of it. We are ready to move the federal resources immediately, immediately if in fact we're asked for it," Mr. Biden said. "... I say to the people of Florida, whatever help you want that the federal government can provide, we're waiting. Just ask us. We'll be there."

The president said he had spoken with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava as well as Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents the district.

By Melissa Quinn
 

"Literally half of that building is not there anymore"

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters the images coming from Surfside don't fully capture the destruction from the collapse, which he called "tragic."

"The TV doesn't do it justice," DeSantis said. "I mean, it is really, really traumatic to see the collapse of a massive structure like that."

"Literally half of that building is not there anymore," Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

Rescue crews are continuing to look through the rubble for survivors.

"We've got the dogs, we've got the equipment, and we're going to do our very best to save as many people in that pile of rubble as we possibly can," Burkett said.

By Alex Sundby
 

Images show destruction and raw emotions

Images from South Florida show the extent of the damage from Thursday's deadly collapse and the raw emotions felt by people in the area. 

Household items and debris dangle from a partially collapsed multistory beachfront condo, Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Florida.
Household items and debris dangle from a partially collapsed multistory beachfront condo, Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Wilfredo Lee / AP
A woman weeps at the Surfside Community Center where authorities are taking residents and relatives from a partially collapsed building in Miami Beach, Florida, June 24, 2021.
A woman weeps at the Surfside Community Center where authorities are taking residents and relatives from a partially collapsed building in Miami Beach, Florida, June 24, 2021. MARCO BELLO / REUTERS
Residential Building In Miami Partially Collapsed
Search and rescue personnel work in the rubble of the 12-story condo tower that partially collapsed on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. Getty Images
By Alex Sundby
 

Video shows a boy being pulled from rubble

Video taken early Thursday shows a young boy being pulled from the building's rubble. A mattress could be seen near him as he was rescued.

Officials said later at a press conference two people had been pulled from the rubble and 35 people were pulled from the condo structure — a portion of which was still standing after the partial collapse.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Video appears to show collapse

A Fox Sports radio host in Florida said he obtained video of Thursday morning's collapse. Andy Slater posted the 24-second video to his Twitter account. CBS News has been unable to confirm the source of the video.

The footage appears to show the central part of the building falling, followed by another section moments later.

By Alex Sundby
 

Building resident recounts being inside during collapse: "Loudest thing I've ever heard"

Survivor recounts Surfside building collapse 03:21

A man living in the Surfside, Florida high-rise building that collapsed early Thursday said he "thought it was lightning" when he first heard a crash outside his door.

"It was as loud as you could — the loudest thing I've ever heard," Barry Cohen told CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez. "Now I know what a building collapsing sounds like."

Cohen said Surfside police were already on the scene when he climbed out to his balcony.

"We said, 'What should we do?' And they said, 'Go back inside.' We don't know what's going on. And then we went out of our apartment," he said.

Cohen opened the door to leave but, where he was accustomed to seeing a 100-yard lobby. "It was rubble — gone," he said.

Cohen said he was simply "happy to be alive."  

By Elizabeth Elkind
 

Surfside mayor describes bleak early morning rescue efforts: "There were no sounds"

Deadly Florida building collapse 06:20

Surfside, Florida Mayor Charles Burkett told "CBS This Morning" that roughly "one-third or more" of an apartment building was "totally pancaked" after it partially collapsed early Thursday.

"Looks like an earthquake," he told CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez.

He described the grim prospects rescuers encountered in the middle of the night.

"They sent the dogs in, and there were just no hits. We had no hits on the dogs. So there were no sounds, and the dogs did not react. So we're awaiting for daylight," he said. "They're waiting now to go back.

"There are over 100 units in that building, and that's — that's what is frightening us badly right now."

He confirmed to CBS News that one person died and at least two were transported to the hospital. Burkett also said ten people were treated for their injuries at the scene.

"We have about 15 family units up at the community center right now, and we're making arrangements for them to find some housing — temporary housing," he said.

Unlike some residential buildings in South Florida primarily used as vacation homes, Burkett said the building was primarily used by full-time residents — mainly families.

"Of course, some come down for the season, but you know, that was an active, very filled-up building," he said. "We're all just scratching our heads trying to imagine what in the world could have happened."  

By Elizabeth Elkind
 

Resident calls collapse "most horrific thing that I've seen in my life"

Surfside, Florida resident Mich Balkany said the partial collapse of a high-rise apartment building in his neighborhood early Thursday was "absolutely insane."

"I've been living in Surfside the past 10 years, and this is by far the most horrific thing that I've seen in my life," he told ReliableNewsMedia.

CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez reported from the scene for "CBS This Morning."

Balkany and his brother were taking an early morning walk when the building collapsed — and they have friends with family members living there.

"What we saw from the beginning was a huge cloud of smoke and lots of noise," Balkany said.

His brother described the chaotic scene: "So we start rushing towards there, you know, we put our shirts over our face so we don't get any dust in our eyes and everything," he said. "I asked a security guard from the other building and she says that she saw it collapse and she's like, "Yeah, they were doing construction over there."

What caused the deadly accident is still unclear. 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed one fatality so far to CBS News.  

By Elizabeth Elkind
 

"A really big rumble"

One man had got word of the partial collapse in dramatic fashion.

He told CBS Miami he "was walking with my brothers, we were walking our dog in the neighborhood, and basically we heard a really big rumble and we thought it was a motorcycle, you know, and we turned around and saw a cloud of dust just coming our way.

"We were like — 'What is going on?'

"We went rushing toward it with shirts over our faces and the security guard came out and we were, like, 'What happened?' and she said the building collapsed."

By Brian Dakss
 

"The building – it's gone!"

A tourist who was evacuated from a hotel near the collapsed building tweeted video of the aftermath:

By Brian Dakss
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