Crews comb rubble of collapsed Florida condo, 99 unaccounted for

June, 25/2021 - 09:44


Photo released by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue shows a partially collapsed residential building in Miami-Dade County, Florida, the United States, on June 24, 2021.

SURFSIDE — Rescue teams combed through the rubble of an oceanfront apartment block near Miami Beach that partially collapsed yesterday, killing at least one person and leaving 99 more unaccounted for amid fears of a much higher death toll.

An unknown number of residents are feared to have been asleep in the 12-story building, in the town of Surfside, when the collapse in the wee hours of yesterday morning reduced a large portion of it to a pile of debris, exposing the interiors of gutted apartments.

"I don't know about them. I don't know if they are alive," he said.

So far 102 others have been accounted for, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

At a Surfside community center, relatives of the missing cried as they waited for news. Tenants of the ruined building who were lucky enough to have been away when disaster struck pondered sudden homelessness.

"I just came back and the scene is shocking," he said. "There is a lot of pain. I'm blessed that I am alive."

The building was occupied by a mix of full-time and seasonal residents and renters, and officials have stressed it is unclear how many people were actually inside at the time.

'Bracing for bad news' 

One death was confirmed by Surfside mayor Charles Burkett, and Heyman said some 14 survivors had been recovered from the rubble.

As hope receded of finding more survivors, the focus was on the recovery of possible victims amid the rubble, in a massive operation assisted by drones and dogs and involving dozens of police and firefighter units.

After speaking with mayor Levine Cava, President Joe Biden told reporters his administrationstood ready to send emergency resources to Florida "immediately" if requested.

'Like a bomb went off' 

"It looks like a bomb went off, but we're pretty sure a bomb didn't go off, so it's something else," Burkett said.

"She calls me again and tells me: 'Nico, you know I would never joke about this. I need you to go over there.' We came running."

"It was like a very bass-y, like boom boom, boom boom, that kind of thing," he told local television WFOR.

Local media said records showed the block was built in 1981 and had more than 130 units inside. — AFP