12-story Florida residential building, partially collapsed, killing at least one

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(CNN) – Part of a 12-story residential building collapsed Thursday morning in the community of Surfside, South Florida, killing at least one person and triggering an intense search and rescue effort, have announced officials.

Two people were pulled from the rubble and 35 others have been evacuated from standing parts of the building since the collapse that occurred around 1:30 a.m., Miami-Dade Deputy Fire Chief Ray Jadallah said.

About 55 of the building’s 136 units collapsed, Jadallah said. One side of the building fell, leaving huge piles of rubble.

One person has died, Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett told reporters hours before Jadallah spoke. Jadallah did not speak about the conditions of the two people helped from the scene.

Rescuers helped a boy clear out the debris, a witness said, and video showed responders helping others to leave standing parts of the building, sometimes using a bucket atop a fire truck ladder.

“It’s a horrible disaster. In the United States, buildings just don’t fall, ”said Burkett.

Rescue teams rushed to the scene – 8777 Collins Avenue – a few miles north of Miami Beach.

Kimberly Morales told CNN that she lived in the apartment building opposite the collapse and was awoken by alarms that went off and knocked on her door.

“I woke everyone up in the room because when I looked out the window I saw everyone outside,” she told CNN. “I told everyone to hurry up and leave the building.”

Morales said she didn’t hear the collapse, but when she got out she saw that a significant part of the building was missing. She is now in a community center with other evacuees, she said.

In addition to two people taken to hospital, 10 were assessed and treated on site, Jadallah said.

The building was undergoing work on the roof, but it is not known whether this was a factor in the collapse, the mayor said.

Witness finds boy trapped and brings rescuers to him

Witness Nicholas Balboa told CNN he saw a boy’s wiggling fingers stick out of the debris shortly after the collapse – a finding that led to the child’s rescue.

Balboa, who lives nearby, said he was walking his dog around 1:30 or 1:40 a.m. when he felt the ground shake and saw plumes of dust and debris. He and another man went to the back of the building. While he doubted anyone could survive the collapse, he heard someone screaming, he said.

Finally, I got close enough to hear it and (the trapped boy) said, ‘Can you see my hand? “” Balboa told CNN’s “New Day.”

“He ran his hand through the debris. And I could see his hand and his fingers shaking.

Balboa and the other man summoned a police officer and other rescuers eventually arrived, Balboa said.

The boy, who was under a mattress and bed frame when he was found, has been removed, he said.

Video captured by ReliableNewsMedia shows rescuers helping a survivor out of the rubble – it was not immediately clear if this was the boy Balboa described.

A rescuer put an arm under what looked like a collapsed wall, his metal reinforcement bars now pointing skyward, to help the survivor, who was wearing a dark shirt and pajama pants.

The survivor slowly bent down, resting his body on a rescuer’s right shoulder and draping his legs over the larger person’s chest, the video from ReliableNewsMedia shows. Then the survivor was lowered onto a white stretcher and helped the rescue team secure the orange straps. The team took the person away.

Soon after, at least six stories higher, a trio of survivors and what looked like a dog climbed from a balcony into the bucket atop the raised ladder of a fire engine. The bucket then slowly lowered.

The resident looked down the hall and “there was nothing there”

Barry Cohen was in his apartment on the third floor of the building when the collapse occurred. His apartment was intact, but when he opened his door and tried to leave, he “looked down the hall and there was nothing there,” he said.

“It was just a pile of dust and rubble,” Cohen told CNN’s “New Day”.

As he waited for help, the building was shaking, he said.

“Knowing what it looked like outside my door, I thought that at any time we could be that same pile of rubble,” he said.

After about 20 minutes, a rescue team used a lifting platform to help him, his wife and another resident from a balcony, he said.

“We just see a cloud of dust coming towards us”

Shmuel Balkany was walking with his brothers and his dog when “we hear a really big growl,” he told ReliableNewsMedia.

“And we think it was a motorcycle – like, classic, early in the morning – and we turn around and we just see a cloud of dust coming towards us. And we’re just like, what’s going on? So we, like, we start to rush over there. We pull our shirts over our face so that we don’t get dust, like dust, in our eyes and things. “

“What we saw from the start was a huge cloud of smoke and a lot of noise,” added Mich Balkany, who was also on, reported ReliableNewsMedia.

“We have seen this happen. It was by far the most horrible thing I have seen. I was alive for September 11. I haven’t seen this happen in real life. I have seen something like this happen and it is the closest thing I can associate with September 11, ”said Mich Balkany. “It’s something that is absolutely crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy.

Shmuel Balkany added: “We have friends who have family who live in the building. We don’t even know if they’re okay. Some of them are OK. We don’t know if the rest is OK.

“It’s very shocking. We are shaken. We are quite shaken up. It is not yet changing in our minds, ”said Shmuel Balkany.

David Shaw was visiting from Alabama when “the building next door broke down,” he told ReliableNewsMedia.

“The building shook, then I looked out the window. You couldn’t see. I thought it was like a storm or something coming up, ”he said. “When the dust cleared, the back two-thirds of the building was gone, it was down to the ground.”

The fire department staff quickly knocked on Shaw’s door, telling him to evacuate. “So we just gathered our things and left,” he said, then left rolling a suitcase and carrying two luggage bags.

As first responders scoured the scene, a line of showers and storms headed west toward the Miami coastal region on Thursday morning, which could impact search and rescue activities.


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