Surfside building collapse updates: At least one dead as search and rescue continues

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(MIAMI) — At least one person was killed and several others were injured early Thursday after a 12-story residential building partially collapsed in southern Florida’s Miami-Dade County, authorities said.

The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue received a call at around 1:30 a.m. local time about a partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small, beachside town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach.

A massive search and rescue operation was launched before dawn, as crews carefully combed through the wreckage and remaining structure for survivors. So far, crews have rescued 35 occupants who were trapped inside the building and two others who were beneath the rubble, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Raide Jadallah.

“We are shoring up the structure on the inside as we continue to tunnel in to locate additional survivors,” Jadallah said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett called the “complete collapse” a “catastrophe.”

Footage from the scene showed firefighters pulling a boy from the rubble alive and rescuing others from still-standing balconies.

Jadallah told reporters that at least 45 people, including those who were rescued, were medically assessed and treated on site. Two of them were subsequently transported to local hospitals, and one has since died.

Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, about 8 miles northwest of Surfside, has received three patients from the scene so far. Two have critical injuries while the third is in fair condition, a hospital spokesperson told ABC News.

The oceanfront condominium has 136 units, and approximately 55 of them collapsed on the northeast corridor, according to Jadallah.

The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has sent more than 80 units to the scene and is leading the search and rescue efforts, which Jadallah said “are still ongoing.” It’s unclear how many residents remain unaccounted for.

The Foreign Ministry of Paraguay said six Paraguayan nationals were in the building and still missing: Sophia López-Moreira, who is the sister of the country’s first lady; her husband, Luis Pettengill; their three children; and their nanny, Lady Luna Villalba. President Mario Abdo Benítez canceled his events due to the incident.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis toured the site, telling reporters it was “traumatic to see.”

“It’s a tragic day,” DeSantis said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. “We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors.”

Burkett, the Surfside mayor, told reporters that the condominium was built in the 1980s and was believed to be substantially full at the time of the partial collapse. The building was undergoing roof work, he said.

Some 15 families escaped the building on their own and were put up in a local hotel, according to Burkett. Search dogs did an initial pass around the wreckage when it was still dark and the site was considered dangerous, but there were no signs of survivors at that time, the mayor said.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called the situation “unimaginable” and thanked the “brave” rescuers.

“We need to allow them to do their work because every minute in this search can make a huge difference,” she said at a news conference.

One witness told ABC News that his wife cares for an elderly woman who lives in the condominium and frantically called him around 1:15 a.m. local time, after the units next door came crashing down. He said his wife and the elderly woman both were rescued.

People in neighboring buildings have been evacuated to a local recreational center, another witness told ABC News.

The cause of the collapse is unknown, and the Miami-Dade Police Department is leading an investigation.

“Our goal is to provide a thorough investigation and closure for our families,” Freddy Ramirez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said during the press conference in Surfside on Thursday morning.

Authorities have opened a family assistance center at the Surfside recreational center for individuals unable to locate loved ones who live in the Champlain Towers South. Anyone with family members from the condominium who are either safe or still missing is urged to call 305-614-1819 to account for them.

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