LIVE: At least 1 dead, 51 residents unaccounted for after Florida condo collapse causes massive emergency response

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SURFSIDE, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — At least one person is dead and 51 people are unaccounted for after a sea-view side of a beachfront condo tower collapsed in a Miami-area town early Thursday morning, drawing a massive response from emergency services.

About half of the building’s 130 units collapsed, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference. Rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the wreckage by mid-morning, and heavy equipment was being brought in to help stabilize the structure to give them more access, Raide Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue said.


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The collapse tore away walls and left a number of homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed in what looked like a giant dollhouse. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled. Search and rescue operations were still underway.

Sally Heyman, a Miami-Dade County Commissioner, said officials have been unable to make contact with 51 people who “supposedly” live in the building, home to a mix of people including families and part-time “snow birds” who spend the winter months in Florida.


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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. At least 10 people were injured as a result of the collapse.

“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.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like this happen,” he said.

A partially collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Ten people were treated at the scene and two were brought to the hospital, one of whom died, Burkett said, adding that 15 families walked out of the building on their own.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue conducted search and rescue operations confirming more than 80 units were “on scene with assistance from municipal fire departments.”

Work is currently being done on the building’s roof, but Burkett said he did not see how that could have caused the collapse. Authorities did not said what the cause may be.

An image posted on Miami Beach Police’s Twitter account showed a tangle of rubble with debris spilling down from what was left of the balconies of the building in the darkness.

Boy rescued from the rubble of a building collapse in Surfside, Florida — near Miami Beach.
Hundreds of first responders are on the scene right now.
Rescue operation continues at 8777 Collins Ave. pic.twitter.com/Hnq7Gd9QW4

— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) June 24, 2021

“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 twelve floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”

In a statement sent to NewsNation, FEMA confirmed they have not sent federal crews to the condo building yet for search and rescue efforts. The Florida regional search and rescue teams have lead the response so far.

“Urban Search and Rescue teams Florida Task Force 1 and 2, responded to this incident as local resources. FEMA Region 4 Regional Administrator Gracia Szczech has been in communication with the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management since early this morning. There has been no request for federal assistance at this time,” said a FEMA spokesperson.

The collapse sent a cloud of debris through the neighborhood, coating 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 near 88th Street and Collins Avenue in Surfside.


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Police blocked nearby roads, and scores of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area.

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.

The sea-view condo development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside, on the beach. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000, the Associated Press reported. The town of Surfside has a population of just over 5,000.

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.

In this image made from video, fire rescue crews are on the scene of a building collapse in Surfside, Miami, FL. early Thursday, June 24, 2021. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (Jamal Akakpo via AP)
In this image made from video, fire rescue crews are on the scene of a building collapse in Surfside, Miami, FL., early Thursday, June 24, 2021. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (Jamal Akakpo via AP)
In this image made from video, officials arrive on the scene of a building collapse in Surfside, Miami, FL., early Thursday, June 24, 2021. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (Jamal Akakpo via AP)
In this image made from video, officials arrive on the scene of a building collapse in Surfside, Miami, FL. early Thursday, June 24, 2021. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (Jamal Akakpo via AP)
A partial collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A partial collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
People view a partially collapsed building early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A partially collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A partially collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Firefighters search a partially collapsed building early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A partially collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A partially collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A section of a partially collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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