At least one person was killed after a high-rise building near Miami Beach partially collapsed early Thursday morning, authorities said, with at least 10 more injured.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed the fatality, telling CNN that “This is a horrific catastrophe. In the United States, buildings just don’t fall down.”
Scores of rescue units rushed to the partially collapsed building and firefighters were seen pulling survivors from the concrete debris.
At least 35 people have been rescued from the building, called Champlain Towers South. Those 35 were rescued from the building itself, including the part that collapsed, but not from the rubble. An additional two were pulled from the rubble.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue does not know yet how many people may be missing. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman, who represents Surfside, told several media outlets that 51 people who lived in the building were unaccounted for. However, some may not have been in the building at the time of the collapse.
“My prayers are with all those impacted by this horrific tragedy and with their families,” Miami’s Mayor Daniella Levine Cava wrote on Twitter, expressing her gratitude to the rescuers who are working to save lives.
Santo Mejil, 50, told the Miami Herald his wife called him from the building, where she was working as an aide for an elderly woman.
“She said she heard a big explosion. It felt like an earthquake,” Mejil told the newspaper. He said she later called him and said rescuers were bringing her down.
Miami Dade Fire Rescue was conducting search and rescue operations, and said in a tweet that more than 80 units were “on scene with assistance from municipal fire departments.”
“We’re on the scene so it’s still very active,” said Sgt. Marian Cruz of the Surfside Police Department. “What I can tell you is the building is twelve floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”
Teams of fire fighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.
The collapse left a number of units in the still-standing part of the building exposed. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside the damaged apartments. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.
Police blocked nearby roads, and scores of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area.
The debris from the collapse coated cars up to two blocks away with a light layer of dust.
Photos and video from the scene show 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.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is on his way to Surfside to get updates on the situation. State emergency response crews are already on site.
The building had more than 130 units, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, and about half of those had collapsed.
The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. The community provides a stark contrast from bustle and glitz of South Beach with a slower paced neighborhood feel.