At around 1:30 a.m ET, a 12-story residential building partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida. The tragedy has left a total of 99 people unaccounted for, with 11 being treated for various degrees of injuries and one casualty. Search and rescue teams have been on the scene since 2 a.m. ET and intend to carry on throughout the night.
This is not an effort that will be taken lightly, as the Surfside Town Manager Andy Hyatt stressed.“ This is not something that is going to be brief. It’s going to be something that is for the long term and possibly at least a week,” Hyatt said to press earlier this afternoon. Earlier in the search effort, rescue teams had to pause due to heavy winds and lightning as a storm rolled in, only complicating the race against time first responders must deal with to find survivors. As of right now a total of 102 people have been accounted for, with 37 survivors being pulled out of the rubble, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Ray Jadallah.
The cause of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex is still unknown. The building was built in 1981, just now hitting its “40 year standards” mark which calls for general strengthening of the building through updates and improvements. This standard was established after Hurricane Andrew destroyed parts of Florida in 1992. Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed that the work was being done on the concrete roof in the days leading up to the incident, but it cannot be determined whether that was a contributing factor to the collapse at this time. In total the complex held approximately 139 units. Of that, 55 units have been reported to have collapsed.
Kenneth Direktor, the attorney for the association of residents at the building, told CNN there have been “multiple engineering inspections over the last several months.” Direktor also added “nothing like this was foreseeable, at least it wasn’t seen by the engineers who were looking at the building from a structural perspective.” Fire and Rescue teams will continue to prioritize any life saving efforts over investigating the cause of the incident at this time.
Thursday evening the Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a State of Emergency which will provide assistance for families impacted by the collapse of Champlain Towers South. It will also allow resources from surrounding areas to be diverted to the site of the incident including law enforcement and emergency personnel. The surrounding buildings have been evacuated and short term hotels have been set up for the families displaced. A family relocation center has been established in Surfside in attempts to begin reunification efforts.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said to the public, “Anyone who is looking for a missing loved one, anyone with information, we have a hotline. This is how we are going about continuing this operation with the support of family members. We are also going to be receiving family members. We’re going to accommodate them.” According to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, the center can be found at 9301 Collins Avenue, Surfside, Florida.
The Mayor also added that the Fire and Rescue department has been doing a dedicated job with their efforts, saying, “They were able to rescue so many from the buildings, the intact building, the collapsed building, and really incredible that at this time we’ve only identified one person as having passed. So we are very, very hopeful.” Search efforts will continue through the night, and the mayor has announced that officials are planning a news conference for 8 a.m. Friday morning to release additional information and updates.