A 12-story oceanfront condo tower partially collapsed early Thursday morning in Surfside, a town just north of Miami Beach.
This is a developing story.
A portion of Champlain Towers South Condo containing about 45 units and facing the beach crumbled around 2am, spurring a massive search-and-rescue effort.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed that at least one person has died and 12 have been injured.
"The building has literally pancaked, it has gone down, and I mean there's just feet in between stories where there were 10 feet," Mayor Burkett said. "That is heartbreaking because it doesn't mean to me that we're gonna be as successful as we would want to be to find people alive."
“They brought dogs who can sniff for survivors in the rubble,” said Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer. “They aren’t turning up very much. No one is celebrating anyone being pulled out.”
The Miami Herald reports that “the building was beginning its 40-year recertification, and the building’s roof was being redone, but it is unknown if any construction activity contributed to the disaster.” Local radio reported that the building had failed its 40-year inspection.
A witness described the collapse to NBC 6 Miami, saying, "I just can't put into words, it looks like a bomb hit, it looks like something in one of these Third World countries that just literally collapsed, like a pancake straight down, and there's just an incredible pile of rubble."
Two others, Shmuel Balkany and his brother Mich, were out walking their dog when they heard the condo collapse. Shmuel said, “We hear a really big rumble, and we think that it was a motorcycle — like, classic, early in the morning — and we turn around and we just see a cloud of dust coming our way. And we're just like, what is going on? So we, like, we start rushing towards there. We pull our shirts over our face so we don't get any, like, dust, in our eyes and everything."
The dust from the collapse coated cars up to two blocks away.
"What we saw from the beginning was a huge cloud of smoke and a lot of noise," added Mich. "We saw this happen. It was by far the most horrific thing that I've seen. I was alive for 9/11. I didn't see that happen in real life. I saw something like this happen and it's the closest thing that I can relate to 9/11. This is something that is absolutely insane ... insane, insane, insane, insane."
Shmuel added, "We have friends who have family that live in the building. We don't even know if they're OK. Some of them are OK. We don't know if the rest are OK. It's very shocking. We're shook. We're pretty shook. It's not, like, processing in our minds yet.”