October 18. 2021. 6:15

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Miami building collapse: At least one dead, nearly 100 missing

A portion of the 12-story condo tower crumbled to the ground during a partial collapse of the building on June 24th, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


US president Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration in the state of Florida and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts after a building collapse near Miami left at least one dead and nearly 100 missing.

Mr Biden’s action authorises the US department of homeland security’s federal emergency management agency to co-ordinate all disaster relief efforts, the White House said on Friday.

Rescue crews picked through rubble on Thursday looking for survivors after the collapse of part of the oceanfront apartment tower in Surfside near Miami.

Search teams detected sounds of banging and other noises but no voices coming from the mounds of debris hours after a large section of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, a barrier island town across Biscayne Bay from the city, crumbled to the ground, authorities said.

What caused the 40-year-old high-rise to tumble into a heap in a matter of seconds was not immediately known, though local officials said the 12-story tower was undergoing roof construction and other repairs.

Miami-Dade county mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters on Thursday 99 people remained unaccounted for some 18 hours after the collapse, though some may not have been in the building at the time.

Another 102 individuals whose whereabouts were initially unknown have since been located and “declared safe,” she said.

A fire official said earlier that 35 people were evacuated from the portion of the high-rise left standing, and response teams using trained dogs and drones in the search pulled two individuals from the rubble – one of them was dead.

Officials said the complex, built in 1981, was going through a recertification process requiring repairs, with another building under construction on an adjacent site.

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 building construction, Surfside Commissioner Charles Kesl told Local 10.

Search and Rescue personnel work as Miami Dade firefighters spray waterat a the site of a partial collapse building in Surfside, Miami Beach, on June 24th, 2021. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Surfside mayor Charles Burkett said: “The building is literally pancaked.

“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.”

Hours after the collapse, searchers were trying to reach a trapped child whose parents were believed to be dead.

In another case, rescuers saved a mother and child, but the woman’s leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble, Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade emergency management, told the Miami Herald.

Video showed fire crews removing a boy from the wreckage, but it was not clear whether he was the same person mentioned by Mr Rollason.

Teams were trying to enter the building from a parking garage beneath the structure.

Governor Ron DeSantis, who toured the scene, said television did not capture the scale of what happened.

Rescue crews are “doing everything they can to save lives. That is ongoing, and they’re not going to rest,” he said.

Teams of 10 to 12 rescuers at a time entered the rubble with dogs and other equipment, working until they grew tired from the heavy lifting, then making way for a new team, said Florida chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, the state’s fire marshal.

The area has a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. – Reuters/PA