SURFSIDE, Fla. — Officials said late Thursday afternoon at least 99 people are still unaccounted for following the deadly collapse of a Surfside condo building overnight, which killed at least one person.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 102 people are accounted for. At least 37 of those were rescued from the structure by emergency crews.
"We are all praying. We are all crying. We are all here with the suffering families," Levine Cava said. "Our people are working around the clock. Our fire rescue team is leaving no stone unturned."
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said the Champlain Towers South condominium building, located at 8777 Collins Avenue, partially collapsed around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. At least 11 victims were injured and four of them were taken to the hospital.
Levine Cava said she's signed a local state of emergency declaration, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has an emergency order as well, which will allow Miami-Dade County to receive federal support from FEMA.
"The president has pledged that support," Levine Cava said. "We will be able to bring an addition, FEMA, federal assistance to this site and to the families who are suffering."
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A family assistance and reunification center is open at the Surfside Community Center, located at 9301 Collins Avenue, for people who are unable to locate their relatives who live in the building. You can open a Missing Person Report Online or call 305-614-1819.
If you live at the Champlain Towers, you are encouraged to complete this Wellness Check Form to ensure all tenants of the building are located.
Officials said an urgent search and rescue effort is underway using sonar equipment and multiple K9 dogs, and crews are tunneling into the rubble to find survivors.
"It is a very slow and methodical process because every time we start breaching parts of the structure, we do get debris that falls on us," said MDFR Assistant Chief of Operations Raide Jadallah. "All operations are occurring underneath the rubble."
During a press conference at 8 p.m., Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine said fire rescue crews will continue to work throughout the night.
#MDFR #TRT & #FLTF1 are working in the basement parking garage at Champlain Towers. Firefighters continue working on locating possible victims, while dealing with heavy damage and changing conditions in the parking garage. #SurfsideBuildingCollapse pic.twitter.com/qseknk0T8q— Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (@MiamiDadeFire) June 24, 2021
A fire briefly broke out Thursday afternoon at the building, which Jadallah said was caused by a shifting of the structure.
Images from the scene showed a cloud of thick smoke rising from the rubble around 2 p.m. A team of firefighters used ladder trucks and ground units to hose down the flames.
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Levine Cava said two side buildings at the Champlain Towers complex have been evacuated as crews carry out a painstaking and exhaustive search for survivors underneath mounds of concrete, metal, and other debris.
"This is the incredible, unimaginable situation that none of us could have predicted, but we have the right people on the job," Levine Cava said.
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Authorities said that once Miami-Dade Fire Rescue completes its search and rescue operation, the Miami-Dade Police Department and federal agencies will launch an investigation into the cause of the collapse.
DeSantis met with local and state emergency management officials on Thursday afternoon and also toured the damage.
"The TV doesn't do it justice. It is really, really traumatic to see the collapse of a massive structure like that," DeSantis said. "We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors."
Thursday evening, the governor signed an emergency declaration to get FEMA assistance to those displaced by the collapse.
According to authorities, 55 units were impacted inside the condominium building, which was more than 80% occupied at the time of the collapse.
"Little Surfside has experienced a catastrophe," said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. "We've got the dogs, we've got the equipment, and we're gonna do our very best to save as many people in that pile of rubble as we can."
Florida's State Emergency Response Team, including the State Fire Marshal, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Transportation, and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is assisting with the rescue efforts.
More than 80 Miami-Dade Fire Rescue units are involved in the response, including technical rescue teams. In addition, municipal fire departments and Miami Beach police are also assisting, authorities said.
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The 12-story, 136-unit condominium building was built in 1981. It has a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000, police said.
Officials said the building recently began an inspection, but it wasn't completed yet. The building also recently had crews work on some roof repair.
Earlier on Thursday, DeSantis thanked first responders while visiting Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.
"It's a really, really tragic situation," DeSantis said. "We'll hope for the best in terms of additional recoveries, but we are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we're seeing."
Thank you to those who have responded to the tragic building collapse in Surfside. These first responders saved lives. The state has emergency response personnel on site and will assist in any way it can.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 24, 2021
President Joe Biden spoke about the tragedy during a news conference in Washington, D.C., saying the White House is ready to provide federal resources immediately.
"My chief of staff has been deeply involved in this from the very beginning," Biden said. "We got the cabinet involved in it now in terms of dealing with FEMA. We're working on it and I made it clear. I say to the people of Florida, whatever help you want, the federal government can provide. We're waiting. Just ask us. We'll be there."
Levine Cava spoke over the phone to Biden on Thursday and said he offered the full support of the federal government.
Just got off the phone with @POTUS. He offered the full support of the federal gov. to help our community during this difficult time. We continue to work with local, state, & federal agencies as we respond to this tragedy and do everything we can to support the impacted families. pic.twitter.com/BQ4od1Fhdx— Daniella Levine Cava (@MayorDaniella) June 24, 2021