In the early morning hours of Thursday, June 24, a condo building north of Miami Beach partially collapsed. Now, local search and rescue teams are desperately hoping to find dozens of residents who remain unaccounted for. According to local officials, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to a call at 1:38 a.m. summoning them to Champlain Towers South, located in Surfside, Florida. An estimated 55 of the 12-story building’s more than 130 units completely gave way, collapsing into a pile of rubble.
The sudden destruction came as a literal shock to those nearby. “This rumbling was very different, very strange. And something was not right in this sound,” nearby resident Fiorella Terenzi told CNN. “It was too strong, too violent. It almost felt like a shock wave coming from the next building.”
A video taken by a resident’s in-unit camera captured the moments preceding the collapse, suddenly going black as the units fall. Dedicated search and rescue efforts began almost immediately. According to CNN, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue was able to retrieve at least two people from the wreckage as of Thursday afternoon, with further efforts ongoing after a storm with strong winds and lighting forced a temporary pause. Thirty-five have been rescued from intact portions of the building, and 10 of them were treated on site. So far, multiple outlets are reporting that two people were transported to the hospital for their injuries; one of them has since died.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was awed by the startling scale of the destruction. “The TV doesn’t do it justice,” he told reporters, according to CBS News. “I mean, it is really, really traumatic to see the collapse of a massive structure like that.” Charles Burkett, Surfside’s mayor, summed up the tragic situation rather bluntly: “Literally half of that building is not there anymore.”
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As for what incited the 41-year-old residential structure to collapse, Burkett stated that it’s too early to make any kind of declaration. Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told the Miami Herald that the building was in the midst of a structural integrity recertification process. Its roof was also undergoing renovations in the days leading up to the collapse, and the Herald further notes that residents told Salzhauer that a building inspector had visited the site on Wednesday.
For now, the focus remains on search and rescue efforts, though the Herald states that the exact number of missing remains unconfirmed—estimates suggest that as many as 99 residents may still be unaccounted for as of Thursday afternoon. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is receiving support from other nearby municipalities in their search.
Broader efforts are in motion as well. The Red Cross is working with local service agencies to rehouse the displaced. CNN also reports that President Biden has made federal resources including help from FEMA available to Florida, should Governor DeSantis decide the situation constitutes a state of emergency.