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Wing of Miami-area condo collapses; at least 1 person dead

Condo collapses in rubble

A fire official says 35 people were pulled from a Miami-area condominium building that partially collapsed, killing at least one.

Raide Jadallah is assistant fire chief of operations for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and told a news conference Thursday morning that search and rescue efforts are ongoing.

A wing of the 12-storey beachfront condo building collapsed early Thursday, trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal. Scores of rescuers pulled survivors from the debris as a cloud of dust floated through the neighbourhood.

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.

“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.”

Ten people were treated at the scene and two were brought to the hospital, one of whom died, Burkett said, adding that 15 families walked out of the building on their own.

Work is currently being done on the building’s roof, but Burkett said he did not see how that could have caused the collapse. Authorities did not said what the cause may be.

The collapse left a number of homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never seen anything like this happen,” the mayor said.

Barry Cohen, 63, said he and his wife were asleep in the building when he first heard what he thought was a crack of lightning. The couple went onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building's hallway to find “a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around.”

“I couldn’t walk out past my doorway,” said Cohen, the former vice mayor of Surfside. “A gaping hole of rubble.”

He and his wife eventually made it to the basement and found rising water there. They returned upstairs, screamed for help and were eventually brought to safety by firefighters using a cherry-picker.

Cohen said he raised concerns years ago about whether nearby construction might be causing damage to the building after seeing cracked pavers on the pool deck.

Santo Mejil, 50, told the Miami Herald that his wife called him from the building, where she was working as an aide for an elderly woman.

“She said she heard a big explosion. It felt like an earthquake,” Mejil told the newspaper. He said she later called him and said rescuers were bringing her down.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue was conducting search and rescue operations, and said in a tweet that more than 80 units were “on scene with assistance from municipal fire departments.”



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