A wing of a 12-story beachfront apartment building collapsed in a town outside Miami early Thursday morning, killing at least one person while trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal.
Scores of rescuers pulled survivors from the debris as a cloud of dust floated through the neighbourhood.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett warned during a news conference that the building manager told him the tower was quite full and the death toll was likely to rise.
“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.”
Miami Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman told CNN that officials have yet to account for 51 people believed to be residents of the building, but cautioned that it was unclear whether any or all of them were inside at the time of its collapse.
Officials said ten people were treated at the scene and two were brought to the hospital, one of whom died.
Governor Ron DeSantis said officials were “bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing.”
Miami Dade Fire Rescue Chief Ray Jadallah said their team responded to a report of a building collapse at around 1:30 am local time. Jadallah said the destruction affected 55 of the building’s 136 apartment units.
He said 35 people who were trapped in the building were rescued, including two who were pulled from under the rubble.
“Search and rescue efforts are still ongoing,” Jadallah said in a news conference. “We do have operations being conducted inside based on additional Intel we are receiving.”
Officials said although it appears that work was being done on the building’s roof, the cause of the collapse remains unknown.
Officials have urged people to report missing persons by calling a number of a “unification centre” that has been set up.
Nicolas Fernandez was waiting early Thursday for word on close family friends who lived in the collapsed section of the building.
“Since it happened, I’ve been calling them nonstop, just trying to ring their cellphones as much as we can to help the rescue to see if they can hear the cellphones.” –Aljazeera/CNN