A massive search and rescue effort was underway Thursday outside Miami after a 12-story, oceanside condo building partially collapsed into a massive pile of rubble leaving at least one person dead, authorities said.
Miami-Dade Rescue Fire said on Twitter that more than 80 technical and rescue teams were on the scene in Surfside, a few miles north of Miami Beach. Fire fighters picked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed that at least one person had died.
“This is a horrific catastrophe. In the United States, buildings just don’t fall down,” Burkett told CNN.
Police blocked nearby roads, and dozens of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars converged on the area. The building, part of Champlain Towers South, was built in 1981. Authorities had no word yet on casualties and could not say how many people lived in the building.
“We’re on the scene so it’s still very active,” said Sgt. Marian Cruz of Miami Dade Fire Rescue. “What I can tell you is the building is 12 floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”
Victor Cohen, who lives nearby, told WPLG-TV the building had been undergoing a major renovation when the ocean front wing “collapsed like a pancake.”
Surfside resident Michael Ruiz told WPLG he lives near the partially collapsed building.
“Before just 2 in the morning — I live off of Collins Avenue — and I’m hearing, I would say, about 50 ambulances and fire trucks and fire rescues just driving by,” said Ruiz said, who went to the scene and took videos and photos. “So there’s a third of the entire building that you cannot see from the street, but it’s completely gone in the back, toward the beach side.”
Santo Mejil, 50, told the Miami Herald his wife is an overnight caretaker for an elderly woman in the complex. His wife called from a unit on the ninth floor of the south building.
“She said she heard a big explosion. It felt like an earthquake,” Mejil said.
Photos and video from the scene show that the collapse affected half the tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building. The department has yet to say what may have caused the collapse near 88th Street and Collins Avenue.
NBC 6 in South Florida tweeted a photo of firefighters pulling a boy from the rubble of the building. Firefighters were also seen using ladder trucks to rescue people from the high-rise.
A few two-bedroom units in the development are listed for sale with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000, an internet search shows.
The building’s website promotes “incredible oceanfront views or spectacular views of inter-coastal waterway with the City in the Background.” It adds that year-round ocean breezes help keep the temperatures moderate in the summer and winter and that the condos are “located near some of the best shopping Miami has to offer as well as the famous Miami Nightlife.”
Contributing: The Associated Press.