Residential Building Near Miami Beach Partially Collapses

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U.S.|Residential Building Near Miami Beach Partially Collapses

A large rescue effort was underway at the scene in the town of Surfside, Fla. At least one person was killed, the police said.

A high-rise residential building in Surfside, Fla., partially collapsed early Thursday.
Credit...Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

June 24, 2021Updated 8:46 a.m. ET

A search-and-rescue effort involving dozens of units was underway on Thursday after a high-rise residential building just north of Miami Beach partially collapsed. At least one person was killed, the police said.

“A number of people” were rushed to nearby hospitals from the rubble of the collapsed building, in the town of Surfside in Miami-Dade County, Fla., a police spokesman said. At least two were in critical condition, according to a spokesman for Aventura Hospital and Medical Center.

Charles W. Burkett, the mayor of Surfside, told the “Today” show on NBC that he had heard from the police that medical teams had treated 10 people at the site. He said dogs had been searching for people trapped under the rubble since 2 a.m.

“Just tragically there haven’t been any hits from the dogs, and that’s a great disappointment,” he said. “Apparently when the building came down, it pancaked. So there’s just not a lot of voids that they’re finding or seeing from the outside.”

It was unclear what caused the building, which appeared to be about 12 stories tall, to collapse. Mr. Burkett said it was also unclear how stable the rest of the building was. He said 15 families were being relocated to hotels.

The beachside building, at 8777 Collins Avenue, is called Champlain Towers South and was built in 1981, according to county property records. It has 136 units, according to real estate websites.

Fiorella Terenzi, an associate professor at Florida International University who lives in a neighboring building, Champlain Towers East, said she woke up early Thursday to a loud noise.

The sound “was like a big thump all of a sudden,” she said. At first she thought it was thunder but then started to hear sirens. When she left the building, dust was everywhere.

“I could see that half of the building of the Champlain Towers South was collapsed like a sandwich,” said Ms. Terenzi, 59, who has lived in the east tower since 2000. “It really was a shocking view.” Ms. Terenzi said she had seen heavy equipment on the roof of the south tower for the past two weeks.


A search-and-rescue effort was underway at the scene in Surfside.
Credit...Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Footage from WPLG Local 10, a Miami TV station, showed firefighters pulling a boy from the rubble, amid piles of debris and rebar. They also showed crews rescuing at least one person from a balcony on a lower floor.

Barry Cohen, 63, told reporters that he was fast asleep when he heard “a huge crash, which I thought was a crash of lightning.”

But the sound continued for 15 to 20 minutes, prompting him and his wife to peer out from their third-floor balcony. A police officer told them to stay inside because officials did not yet know what had happened.

“We went to leave the apartment, and I opened up the door that goes into the hallway, and there was a huge pile of just rubble,” said Mr. Cohen, a former Surfside vice mayor. He and his wife were eventually rescued by the fire department along with one or two more of his neighbors.

“It was pretty frantic,” he said. “I was screaming to them, ‘Get us out of here!’”

He added, “I’m always happy to be alive, but I’m even happier to be alive today.”

Jimmy Patronis, the state fire marshal, said he was headed to the scene to help coordinate the response. “There are a lot of families that will need our thoughts and prayers this AM as our first responders keep working to save lives,” he said on Twitter.

Patricia Mazzei and Christine Hauser contributed reporting.

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