At least one person was killed and firefighters were extricating dozens of people from a battered high-rise condominium building Thursday in Surfside Florida, after part of the structure collapsed into a mammoth pile of twisted steel and concrete, authorities said.
Residents seeking to flee the building screamed for help, and some were plucked from the building by firefighters using ladders. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed that at least one person had died and warned that the death toll was likely to rise. “The building is literally pancaked,” Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”
Raide Jadallah, assistant fire chief of operations for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said 35 people were pulled from the partially collapsed building at Champlain Towers South. Two more were rescued from the debris, he said. More than 80 technical and rescue teams were on the scene in Surfside, a few miles north of Miami Beach.
Firefighters picked through the rubble – piled almost half as high as the part of the building still standing – extricating survivors and carrying them from the wreckage. Surfside Town Manager Andy Hyatt said the search and rescue effort could take a week. Jadallah said firefighters were shoring up the building and tunneling into the devastation to search for survivors. About 55 of the 130-plus condos collapsed, he said. Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, said that emergency workers believed they have cleared all survivors from inside the tower. He said more than 70 units were destroyed or damaged.