Miami Beach

4 Dead, 159 Unaccounted for, Search and Rescue Underway After Partial Collapse of Surfside Condo Building

Footage from the scene showed a large section of the sea-view side of the building collapsed into a pile of rubble

Rescuers continued their desperate search throughout the night for any survivors in the partial collapse of a 12-story condominium building in Surfside that killed at least four people and trapped others in the rubble.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the rising death toll Friday morning.

The collapse on Thursday morning sent a cloud of debris through the neighborhood, coating cars up to two blocks away with a light layer of dust. Footage from the scene showed a large section of the sea-view side of the building collapsed into a pile of rubble.

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. He also said the building could be in danger of additional collapse.

"The building is literally pancaked, it has gone down, and I mean there's just feet in between stories where there were 10 feet," Burkett said. "That is heartbreaking because it doesn't mean to me that we're gonna be as successful as we would want to be to find people alive."

Teams of 10 to 12 rescuers at a time entered the rubble with dogs and other equipment, working until they grew tired from the heavy lifting, then making way for a new team, said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, the state’s fire marshal.

“They’re not going to stop just because of nightfall,” Patronis said. “They just may have a different path they pursue.”

Cava said 120 people have been accounted for and 159 are still missing following the collapse. Officials stressed that "unaccounted for" didn't necessarily mean those people were in the building at the time of the collapse. Authorities were taking DNA samples from the family members of those missing.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said 37 people were rescued from the structure so far, and two people were pulled from the rubble after about 55 apartment units collapsed. Sources told NBC 6 that search dogs found two viable survivors amid the rubble.

Pictures Show Aftermath of Miami Beach Condo Building Collapse

President Joe Biden early Friday approved a state of emergency declaration from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, officially permitting federal resources, including FEMA assistance, to be directed to Surfside. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine said Thursday she had spoken by phone with Biden, who had offered the full support of the federal government.

The Red Cross opened a short-term shelter Thursday and is providing hotel rooms for displaced families. It also committed to providing small grants for short-term expenses and mental health counseling and services for each family.

Rescue crews were searching under the rubble and using sonar devices to detect any signs of life, fire officials said. They noted that they did receive some sounds as they searched the debris — not necessarily human voices but the sounds of banging.

Surveillance footage shows the moment a 12-story condominium building in Surfside collapsed early Thursday morning. (Warning: Footage may be disturbing for some viewers.)

Video from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue shows firefighters from several departments across South Florida searching a flooded basement parking garage at Champlain Towers.

Officials at nearby Aventura Hospital said they had received three patients from the scene. Two were in critical condition. Memorial Healthcare confirmed they have one pediatric patient from the collapse but didn't specify their age.

A small fire appeared to break out in one part of the building on Thursday afternoon amid ongoing search and rescue efforts as smoke could be seen rising from one of the floors. The fire was extinguished in about 20 minutes, officials said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis toured the site Thursday and said the search effort was ongoing.

"TV doesn't do it justice, it is really traumatic to see the collapse of a structure like that," DeSantis told reporters at a news conference at the site. "We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors."

A witness told NBC 6 said he saw the entire rear of the building collapse.

"I just can't put into words, it looks like a bomb hit, it looks like something in one of these Third World countries that just literally collapsed, like a pancake straight down, and there's just an incredible pile of rubble," he said.

Earlier Thursday, firefighters were seen pulling a boy from the rubble and putting him onto a stretcher. The boy's condition was not immediately clear. Firefighters were also seen using a ladder truck to rescue people who were still in sections of the building that were still standing.

A boy is rescued by firefighters from the rubble of a partial collapse of a condo building in Surfside. (Video credit: ReliableNewsMedia)

Daniel Groves was staying at a hotel across the street and said he had to be evacuated after the collapse. Groves posted footage of the aftermath on social media, calling it "the craziest thing I've ever heard in my life."

"The building, one of these huge buildings, gone, right there beside us, the craziest thing I've ever heard in my life," he said in the video. "Look at the building, it's gone."

Footage from a witness shows the aftermath of a partial building collapse in Surfside.

Officials said they don't know what caused the collapse, and DeSantis said engineers will be looking into the cause but it will take time to give answers.

Fire officials said more than 80 units responded to the beachfront condo near 88th Street and Collins Avenue just north of Miami Beach around 2 a.m.

Miami Beach Police said their officers also responded to the building and Miami-Dade County's Technical Rescue Team was being assisted by municipal fire departments in searching the scene for survivors, officials said.

"It's a very active scene, I advise everyone to just stay out of the area so that fire rescue and officers can conduct rescues and do what we need to do," Surfside Police Sgt. Marian Cruz said early Thursday.

The Champlain Towers South Condos is located at 8777 Collins Avenue. The development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside, on the beach, and has more than 130 units. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000, an internet search showed.

Burkett said there had been recent roof work done on the building but it was unknown if that had anything to do with the collapse.

Approximate area of condo building collapse

Officials said residents were being moved to the Surfside Community Center, and streets in the area were closed.

"As today comes to an end, I reflect on this unforeseen & tragic incident. I pray for our community, those affected & our brave first responders," Miami-Dade Police Department Director Alfredo Ramirez III wrote in a tweet a few minutes before midnight on Thursday.

He added that the fire and police departments were continuing their search and rescue mission and would "relentlessly work throughout the night."

Check back with NBC 6 for updates.

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