ארה"ב סרפסייד פלורידה קריסת בניין ליד מיאמי
The 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed Thursday in Surfside, Florida
Photo: gettyimages
An aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed Thursday in Surfside, Florida

Dozens unaccounted for in Florida beachfront building collapse

Some 20 Jews are said to be among missing in the Miami area high-rise; one person already found as officials say death toll could rise as rescue crews continue to search ruins

Reuters |
Published: 06.24.21, 22:43
Rescue crews near Miami began the daunting task of searching through tons of rubble for victims and anyone who may have survived the collapse of part of an oceanfront residential tower early on Thursday, with at least one person already found dead and nearly 100 unaccounted for.
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  • Sally Heyman, a Miami-Dade County Commissioner, said officials have been unable to make contact with 51 individuals who "supposedly" live in the building, home to a mix of people including families and part-time "snow bird" residents who spend the winter months in Florida.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed early Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Fla
    aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed early Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Fla
    An aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed Thursday in Surfside, Florida
    (Photo: AP)
    Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez later told reporters that 99 people were unaccounted for and that 53 others whose whereabouts were initially unknown have since been located, though he did not make clear whether everyone in the second group was alive.
    Officials said the building, built in 1981, was going through a recertification process requiring repairs and that another building was being newly constructed next door, although the cause of the collapse remained unclear.
    Jenny Urgelles woke up to the news that her parents' building had collapsed. She called them, but both their phones went straight to voicemail, she told WSVN 7 News.
    "I am holding on to hope. I very desperate to know what's happening," she told the local Fox affiliate.
    A local Chabad representative told Ynet that some 20 Jews reside in the building.
    The collapse of the Champlain Towers
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke by phone with Israel's consul general in Miami, Maor Elbaz, who updated him on the state of operations on the ground.
    Lapid also spoke with Jacob Solomon, the head of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
    "Foreign Ministry staff in Miami and Israel are doing everything they can to help those on the ground, the wounded and the families. It is a difficult and complex event and it will take time to deal with it. We are at their disposal for any assistance they may need," Lapid said.
    A fire official said 35 people were rescued from the building in Surfside, a seaside enclave of 5,700 residents on a barrier island across Biscayne Bay from the city of Miami, including two who were pulled from the rubble as response teams used trained dogs and drones in a search for survivors.
    Footage from WPLG Local 10, a Miami TV station, showed a rescue team pulling a boy from piles of debris and rebar, and firefighters using ladder trucks to rescue residents trapped on balconies.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    A Miami-Dade Police helicopter flies over the Champlain Towers South Condo
    A Miami-Dade Police helicopter flies over the Champlain Towers South Condo
    A Miami-Dade Police helicopter flies over the Champlain Towers South Condo
    (Photo: AP)
    The search and rescue effort was slowed by at least one fire that burned at the site as firefighters doused the rubble with water, local media reported.
    Emergency responders and officials were still looking for people who might be in the rubble, as well as trying to identify residents not home at 1:30am (05:30 GMT), when an entire side of the building pulled away and fell to the ground below.
    "We all woke up in the early morning hours to a tragic scene," said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who toured the scene of the catastrophe on Thursday afternoon. "We still have hope to identify additional survivors."
    At least six Paraguayans were among those unaccounted for, Paraguay's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, including the sister of Paraguay's first lady, the sister's husband Luis Pettengill and their three children.

    Subject to various inspections

    The Champlain Towers South had more than 130 units, about 80 of which were occupied. It had been subject to various inspections recently due to the recertification process and the adjacent construction of a building called 88 Park, Surfside Commissioner Charles Kesl told Local 10.
    "There were garage underground issues related to that, to make sure that it was done soundly," Kesl said. "And, to my understanding, there were some cracks from that project - minor cracks - that were just patched up. Nothing, based on my understanding, to the magnitude that would indicate that there was a structural problem that could result in something so catastrophic."
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo
    Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo
    Fire rescue personnel conduct a search and rescue with dogs through the rubble of the Champlain Towers South Condo
    (Photo: AP)
    Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said construction work was being done on the roof of the Champlain Towers South but there was no indication that it caused the collapse.
    "It's hard to imagine how this could have happened," Burkett told reporters. "Buildings just don't fall down."
    Burkett said that part of the building with balconies facing the beach "pancaked" where one floor appears to have fallen atop another, cascading down.
    "The back of the building, probably a third or more, is totally pancaked," he said.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center left, and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, center right, arrive for a news conference near the scene
    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center left, and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, center right, arrive for a news conference near the scene
    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center left, and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, center right, arrive for a news conference near the scene of the collapse
    (Photo: AP)
    Resident Barry Cohen and his wife were rescued from the building.
    "At first it sounded like a flash of lightning or thunder," Cohen, a former vice mayor of Surfside and a resident of the building, told reporters at the scene. "But then it just kept on - steadily for at least 15 to 30 seconds - it just kept on going and going and going."
    Cohen also said there had been construction for more than a month on the building's roof.
    The Miami-Dade Police have assumed control of the investigation. More than 80 fire and rescue units responded, the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department wrote in a Twitter message early Thursday.
    Eyewitness video obtained by Reuters showed neighbors gathering across the street from the rubble.
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