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At least 4 dead, 159 unaccounted for after Florida condo building collapse

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At least four people are dead and 159 are unaccounted for after a high-rise condo building collapsed in Surfside, Florida, early Thursday morning while people were sleeping.

The death toll rose to four after the remains of three people were pulled from the rubble overnight. Search and rescue teams are continuing to work around the clock — combing through twisted steel and concrete — in hopes of finding any survivors.

As the cause of the building collapse remained unknown Friday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, "We have to figure out: Why did this happen?"

"That answer isn't necessarily apparent right now, but it will be identified," he said. "And I think that anyone who was affected by this directly wants that answer, but also, we need to know: Is this a bigger issue or is this something unique to the building?"

The tower was built 41 years ago on reclaimed wetlands. CBS Miami quotes Florida International University earth and environment professor Shimon Wdowinski as saying the land under the building was slowly sinking for decades. The sinking was measured at a rate of two millimeters a year during the 1990s. But he stressed that alone wouldn't cause a building to collapse.

Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told the Miami Herald that a resident of the building told her it was "shaking" during construction over the past few years in the building next door.

The lawyer for the building's condo association, Ken Direktor, told CBS Miami it was undergoing a required 40-year recertification — but he said that "nothing appeared either to the engineers or to any of the residents that suggests anything like this was imminent. Nothing."


Mayor says search and rescue team still has hope that they will find some of the missing alive

At a press briefing Friday night, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters that officials are still "full speed ahead" on search and rescue, noting that people have been discovered alive in rubble over a week beyond the date of the initial incident in other instances. 

"We have hope because that's what our search and rescue team tells us, that they have hope," the mayor said. "They see opportunities, they see fissures that they could go in, they see places that they could break through. And as long as they can do that, as long as they have encouraging signs like the knocking sound that they've heard, then we will continue."

By Victoria Albert

Class-action lawsuit filed against Miami building association

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the building association of the collapsed Miami condo, attorney Brad Sohn confirmed to CBS News. 

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of apartment owner Manuel Drezner, alleges that the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association failed to properly oversee the property and its safety features, thereby endangering the lives of occupants. 

The suit cites public statements from the association's attorney Ken Direktor, who said "repair needs had been identified" in the building but not been addressed prior to its collapse. 

"As a lawyer, I can't fix what is irreparable. But what I can do is fight to immediately fully compensate these victims so that they can focus all of their energy on healing as best they can," Sohn said in a statement Friday. "Our investigation continues, but we strongly believe this was preventable."  

Donna Berger, an attorney for the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, told CBS News that the building's required 40-year inspection was complete but had not yet been delivered to the city. 

Berger said the evidence points to a "a structural, subsurface" issue causing the collapse, citing the demolition and subsequent construction of a building next door, as well as rising sea levels and climate change, as potential causes. 

"These buildings in coastal areas are barrier islands, Berger said Friday. "We absolutely see concrete issues over the years. You see spalling and pitting. You see some rebar erosion. Typically, we see that on the balconies that can even result in a partial collapse of a balcony or a total collapse of the balcony. It's never resulted in a collapse of a building."

Correction: The quote from Donna Berger has been updated to correct a transcription error.

By Zoe Christen Jones

Rescuers intensify search for survivors on second day

Rescue crews are racing against time to try and find survivors as more than 150 people remain unaccounted for, nearly two days after the condo building's collapse. 

Rescue crews formed bucket brigades to clear debris, delicately trying to reach areas within the twisted metal and crumbed concrete. Crews are using search cameras and sonar devices to identify any signs of life. 

Each rescue team is accompanied by a doctor, like trauma surgeon Howard Lieberman. "They remove a layer at a time. So basically, they are sort of delayering the pile. So they take off one layer at a time. We go in, we search, see if we can find anything. If not, they take off another layer," he said. 

Miami-Dade County's search and rescue team is considered among the best in the world, and has been dispatched to disasters around the country and the globe, including Haiti's 2010 earthquake. 

"Right now, they're essentially looking for needles in a haystack. While this building came down relatively straight, they're not — victims and survivors are not going to be located in the exact area where the building used to stand," said retired Miami-Dade fire chief Dave Downey. 

By Manuel Bojorquez

First victim identified as 54-year-old mother

The first deceased victim from the collapse was identified Friday as Stacie Fang, according to a report from the Miami-Dade County medical examiner obtained by CBS News.

Fang, 54, was the mother of a 16-year-old boy who was pulled from the rubble, according to CBS Miami

By Zoe Christen Jones

FEMA sends technical experts to Florida

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched technical experts and staff to aid first responders in the Surfside building collapse, FEMA officials said Friday. 

Three search and rescue teams have also been made available to aid in recovery efforts, FEMA said. Thomas J. McCool will operate as the Federal Coordinating Officer for the area. 

By Zoe Christen Jones

Surfside mayor says he's "hopeful" rescuers will find people alive

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Friday that he's confident the aggressive search and rescue team digging through the rubble will continue to find more residents, according to CBS Miami

The weather and outside elements, including a recurring fire and difficult winds, have made sifting through the debris harder for first responders. But community members are still hopeful they'll find more individuals and are hoping more sunshine will help them in their mission, according to Burkett. 

"I'm hopeful that we'll find people alive under all this rubble and that's what we're going to do," Burkett told CBS Miami. "We owe it to the families. We're going to apply the resources that we have. We have no limit on resources, so we're really good there. We just have to get those resources there and continue to work and we're doing that."

Dozens Presumed Missing After Residential Building In Miami Area Partially Collapses
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel continue search and rescue operations in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 25, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.  Joe Raedle / Getty Images
By Zoe Christen Jones

Uncle of former Chilean president among the missing

One Chilean citizen was a part of the deadly Miami building collapse Thursday, according to the Chilean consulate. That citizen is 86-year-old Claudio Bonnefoy, uncle of Chile's former president Michelle Bachelet, the consulate confirmed. 

Bachelet, currently the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has yet to make a statement. 

By Zoe Christen Jones

President Biden expresses support and condolences to families in phone call with governor

President Biden sent his condolences to the families involved in the Miami building collapse in a phone call with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday, according to the White House. 

Mr. Biden approved an emergency declaration for Miami-Dade County on Friday morning and said that the government stands ready to provide additional assistance for the community of Surfside and the first responders working to find the missing residents. 

"I just spoke about an hour ago with President Biden, and he reiterated his administration's full support. They're all in," DeSantis said at a press conference Friday. 

"And so we really appreciate having the support of the president and the people of Florida. Really appreciate the president and his administration stepping up to help people who are in need."

By Zoe Christen Jones

Families are getting briefed every 4 hours

Families of people who are unaccounted for in the aftermath of the condo collapse are receiving briefings from officials every four hours at a family reunification center, said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

The center was set up on Thursday at 9301 Collins Avenue in Surfside for anyone looking for missing relatives. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

"Every minute is an eternity" for loved ones of missing

Surfside Commissioner Charles Kesl says he has met with family members who are awaiting news of their loved ones, "and it's just so painstakingly slow that I really feel for them."

"Every minute is an eternity," he said, as searchers continue to look for any survivors.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is working carefully, deliberately and safely as they try to locate people alive, Kesl said on CBSN. On Thursday they used audio and sniffing dogs in their search to identify areas where they hoped to find people alive. On Friday, they're using that baseline as a roadmap to continue.

Kesl said the stories of survivors who made it out of the part of the building that is still standing -— who were "at the edge of the precipice as the building shredded and collapsed" — are incredible. 

"Every minute is an eternity" for loved ones of missing in condo collapse 04:28
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Officials working to get emergency visas approved

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, said Friday that officials are working to get emergency visas approved for people from over a dozen countries whose close relatives are among those missing in Surfside.

"Many are starting to or have already arrived in South Florida," he tweeted.

"It's hard to put into words how heartbreaking the situation is in Surfside," he added. "The next few days are going to be incredibly difficult ones for all involved." 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Stretch of iconic road could be closed for lengthy duration

A stretch of Collins Avenue, an iconic road that runs through Miami Beach and north through the collapse area, may be closed for a lengthy duration, CBS Miami reports.

Police created a border around the sire to keep the public away from the active scene, which has led to several road closures. 

"Collins Ave, Harding Ave & Northbound lanes on Byron Ave from 85th to 90th Street have been temporarily closed due to the #SurfsideBuildingCollapse," says Miami-Dade Police. "Southbound lane on Byron Ave is open."

Police said drivers can expect heavy traffic delays in the area and should seek alternate routes.  

Rescue workers and a dog search for people under the debris from a partially collapsed building in Surfside north of Miami Beach, on June 24, 2021. EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Stuffed animals, toys, personal items: "Heart-wrenching to see people's lives on full display"

Florida Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez on search efforts after deadly high-rise collapse 03:38

Massive mounds of rubble in the aftermath of the condo building collapse show layers and layers of debris — fragments of the towering structure but also personal items that are now in the open.

Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez said pictures of the scene "just don't do it justice."

"It is heart-wrenching to see people's lives on full display. Everything from small — small personal items, stuffed animals, toys, people's livelihoods, obviously everything on full display. It is just tragic," she said on "CBS This Morning."

Rubble hangs from a partially collapsed building in Surfside north of Miami Beach, on June 24, 2021. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Florida governor: "We have to figure out: Why did this happen?"

As the cause of the building collapse remained unknown Friday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, "We have to figure out: Why did this happen?"

"That answer isn't necessarily apparent right now, but it will be identified," he said. "And I think that anyone who was affected by this directly wants that answer, but also, we need to know: Is this a bigger issue or is this something unique to the building?"

He stressed that the primary focus right now is search and rescue, and trying to save lives.

He also said FEMA is providing support to people, including those who are displaced from the building, lost everything they had and "are never going to go back." 

Florida governor: "We have to figure out: Why did this happen?" 10:57
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

"I want to go back a day and change everything"

As Surfside rescue efforts continue, family of missing grandmother Judy Spiegel remains hopeful 02:56

Judy Spiegel was in the 12-story building called Champlain Towers South when it collapsed. The 65-year-old wife, mother and grandmother is one of 159 people who haven't been heard from since the collapse, officials said.

"I want to go back a day and change everything," her daughter Rachel Spiegel told CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez.

While Judy remains missing, her family said they are praying for a miracle.

"No matter what happens, I want everyone in the world to know how wonderful my mom is, how much, how great of a person she is, how much we love her, and she loves us. Whatever happens, I'm committed to keeping her alive in every sense of the way," Rachel said.


Number of unaccounted for rises as authorities learn who was in building

The number of people who are unaccounted for rose from 99 on Thursday to 159 on Friday, officials said, as authorities have started to fully understand who was in the building when it collapsed, said Jim DeFede, an investigative reporter at CBS Miami.

"There was no real master list of who was staying inside that building on Wednesday night, so now they have a better idea," DeFede said Friday on CBSN. "And with 159 individuals missing, the chances of recovery of some of those folks is growing more and more dim."

He said we need to start thinking about this accident more like a plane crash — "that this is going to become the equivalent of like a 747 crashing into the ground in terms of the number of lives that are likely to be lost," he said. "And so I think when you start thinking of it in those terms, you realize the scope of it."

"And one sign of that is that at the family reunification center, one of the things that they're doing, with the FBI's assistance, is they're taking DNA samples from families, because they know that once they start recovering the remains, that it's going to be hard to identify," he said.

Officials at the medical examiner's office are bracing for "a very long haul," he said, "like days and days of bodies coming out of there and having to be identified."

Number of unaccounted for rises as authorities learn who was in collapsed condo building 17:44
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Debris, rain, fire create challenges for search and rescue

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Friday that rain, debris and a fire burning under the building were creating challenges for those looking for survivors.

Rain passing over the site on Friday morning was making the work area slick and dangerous, he said on "CBS This Morning." Searchers were also endangered by debris from the building's collapse.

"The rain makes it tough. The fire certainly makes it tough," Burkett said. "But that doesn't mean that the search doesn't continue. So, we're gonna do everything we can. We're gonna hope Mother Nature cooperates, and we're just gonna do everything we can. That's the bottom line."

"The one focus that we have today is to make sure that we bring people out alive," Burkett said. "We've got crews there. We've been going from 7 to 7, and 7 to 7, and we'll keep going until we can get everybody who can be pulled out, pulled out of that building." 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett on search and rescue efforts after condo building collapse 05:30
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Search and rescue efforts ongoing: "A very meticulous long-term process"

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said it was working tirelessly in ongoing search and rescue efforts following the building collapse.

"All the resources we have available, including local assets from partner agencies are being brought in to assist," the department tweeted. 

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue search and rescue teams are considered some of the best in the country, according to CBS Miami. They have been sent to rescue efforts all over the world. 

Now they're doing this in their own backyard. They call it a delicate operation.

"It's harder when it's in your own backyard. But they're dedicated, they're experienced, they're well trained, and they're focusing on the mission," said former Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Dave Downey.

From the weather to fires that have popped, to the nature of the rubble itself, they are facing challenges.

"This is a very meticulous long-term process. It's not over in an hour, it could extend into days," Downey said. "...This morning, they're bringing in some equipment to start de-layering the building because they need to start uncovering some of those flat slabs, again, looking for void spaces that could exist farther down in the rubble."

"Remember, we have a 12 story building that's been reduced to less than a story. So they're trying to find where those void spaces could still exist yesterday, it took a lot of time, just to determine where things were secure and not secure. They'll also be working on stabilizing some of that rubble that we see hanging off of the building that still exists," he added.

Even though the collapse happened early Thursday morning, there is hope that survivors will be found.

"You know, I led the team in Haiti, and we were able to recover a victim eight days after the earthquake. So you know, it's a different type of collapse here, but the rescuers are staying positive," said Downey.


University of Chicago student and girlfriend among those missing

A University of Chicago student and his girlfriend are among dozens of people missing after the deadly condo building collapse in Surfise, his family said Thursday.

The aunt of the student, Ilan Naibryf, posted to Facebook asking for any information about her son. Also missing is his girlfriend, Deborah Berezdivan, she said.

My nephew and his girlfriend were in the colapsed building on Surfside. They are missing. If you have information or hospital access PLEASE PLEASE contact me! ilan Naibryf and Deborah Berezdivin

Posted by Adriana Zaidenvoren on Thursday, June 24, 2021

Naibryf's website says he will enter his fourth year at the university and is studying physics and molecular engineering.

By Stephen Smith

Families anxiously await word on loved ones

Families are anxiously awaiting word on their loved ones who may have been killed in a condo collapse in Surfside, CBS Miami reports.

A family reunification center has been set up at the Surfside Community Center, at 9301 Collins Avenue, just blocks away Champlain Towers South, where 55 units on the northeast side came tumbling down early Thursday morning.

More than 75 search and rescue teams are looking for survivors in the rubble.

People can call a hotline (305) 614-1819 to report a person missing.

Judy Spiegel is among the missing. Her husband and son have not given up hope.

"We have a lot of hope that she's alive and still there. She's an amazing woman, she's a great mother, grandmother," said Judy's husband, Kevin Spiegel.

Another mother missing is Sophia Lopez Moreira, sister-in-law of the president of Paraguay, along with her family.


4 confirmed dead, 159 unaccounted for

Four people are confirmed dead and 159 people are unaccounted for as of Friday morning, officials said at a press conference. 

Search and rescue operations are continuing. 

"We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people alive," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. "That is exactly why we are continuing."

She said search and rescue teams are taking extraordinary risk to be working at the site and that structural engineers are there to ensure they will not be injured. 

Watch the Friday morning press conference:

Officials: At least 4 dead, 159 unaccounted for after Florida building collapse 19:43
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Mom falls 4 stories, breaks pelvis, but pulls herself and daughter from rubble

A story of remarkable strength and determination has emerged from the condo collapse.

Angela Gonzalez and her 16-year-old daughter, Devon, fell from the ninth floor to the fifth when the building crumbled, reports CBS Miami.

Despite breaking her pelvis, Angela somehow not only pulled herself from the rubble, but Devon.

Both were taken to a hospital for treatment. There was no information about Devon's condition.

Edgar Gonzalez, Angela's husband and Devon's dad, is among the people still unaccounted for.

By Brian Dakss

Biden declares state of emergency for Florida

President Biden has declared a state of emergency for Florida, following ones declared Thursday by Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

According to a White House statement, the president "ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts."

The declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to do what they can to aid victims of the collapse.

By Brian Dakss
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