Miami Apartment Building Collapses Without Warning

Tragedy struck Miami on Wednesday when Champlain Towers, an apartment building located at 8777 Collins Avenue, suddenly collapsed in the middle of the night.

Around 1:30 am, approximately half of the 12-story, 130 unit building came crashing down in pancake demolition style. Currently, it is reported that four people are dead, and 159 are unaccounted for, though it is unknown how many people were in the building when it collapsed.

“The building is literally pancaked, it has gone down, and I mean there’s just feet in between stories where there were 10 feet,” said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. “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.”

The former vice mayor of Surfside, Barry Cohen, 63, said he and his wife were sleeping in the building when they heard what they thought was a thunderclap.

“I couldn’t walk out past my doorway,” Cohen explained.

The couple stepped onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building’s hallway, where they discovered “a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around.”

First responders and search and rescue teams, led by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, have been working around the clock since the collapse early Thursday. Chief Ray Jadallah said they have a team of 130 firefighters on the task.

“It’s a very active scene, I advise everyone to just stay out of the area so that fire rescue and officers can conduct rescues and do what we need to do,” stated Surfside Police Sgt. Marian Cruz

FEMA officials began arriving at Surfside early Friday morning to assist with rescue efforts and help survivors after President Joe Biden approved federal emergency aid overnight.

Governor Ron DeSantis also made a beeline for the wreckage. “TV doesn’t do it justice, it is really traumatic to see the collapse of a structure like that,” DeSantis told reporters. “We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors.”

With residents removed from the intact portion of the building, Chief Jadallah explained that search and rescue efforts are entirely focused on the rubble, working from above and below the wreckage.

Throughout the night, rescue teams heard sounds inside the rubble and directed their efforts to the source, Jadallah said.

Heavy machinery is used to pull metal from above and locate voids, while light machinery such as jackhammers and saws are used to tunnel beneath. They are also using microphones and sonar for hearing sounds from under the debris.

“It could be steel twisting, it could be debris raining down, but not specifically sounds of tapping or human voice,” said Jadallah.

The building has been undergoing its 40-year inspection, with roof construction already underway. It is unclear if the construction was a catalyst for the collapse.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Never. Nothing even close,” Kenneth Direktor, attorney for the Champlain Towers Condominium Association, said. “And there are a lot of buildings around Florida that have already done their 40-year certification and needed extensive work, but nothing like this happened. Which is why I don’t think we’re anywhere near a point where we can develop an understanding of what caused this or find any correlation between the 40-year certification and what happened to this building.”

There is speculation that the construction of a neighboring building may have a hand in the collapse of the Champlain Towers.

“This building has been under a lot of scrutiny lately with the 40-year recertification of the building and with the 88 Park building going up next door to the south,” explained Surfside Commissioner Charles Kesl. “There were garage underground issues related to that, to make sure that it was done soundly.

“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.”

While the American Red Cross is looking after the survivors in hotels, all building residents have been successfully evacuated. At the same time, first responders continue their search for survivors.

A family reunification center has been established at a community center on 9301 Collins Avenue for anyone looking for unaccounted or missing relatives.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue tweeted a request to all building residents to complete a Wellness Check form to ensure that all of them are located.

Those looking for their loved ones or reporting that they have been found should call 305-614-1819.

An emergency information hotline has also been created — 305-993-1071.

Tragedy struck Miami on Wednesday when Champlain Towers, an apartment building located at 8777 Collins Avenue, suddenly collapsed in the middle of the night.

Around 1:30 am, approximately half of the 12-story, 130 unit building came crashing down in pancake demolition style. Currently, it is reported that four people are dead, and 159 are unaccounted for, though it is unknown how many people were in the building when it collapsed.

“The building is literally pancaked, it has gone down, and I mean there’s just feet in between stories where there were 10 feet,” said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett. “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.”

The former vice mayor of Surfside, Barry Cohen, 63, said he and his wife were sleeping in the building when they heard what they thought was a thunderclap.

“I couldn’t walk out past my doorway,” Cohen explained.

The couple stepped onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building’s hallway, where they discovered “a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around.”

First responders and search and rescue teams, led by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, have been working around the clock since the collapse early Thursday. Chief Ray Jadallah said they have a team of 130 firefighters on the task.

“It’s a very active scene, I advise everyone to just stay out of the area so that fire rescue and officers can conduct rescues and do what we need to do,” stated Surfside Police Sgt. Marian Cruz

FEMA officials began arriving at Surfside early Friday morning to assist with rescue efforts and help survivors after President Joe Biden approved federal emergency aid overnight.

Governor Ron DeSantis also made a beeline for the wreckage. “TV doesn’t do it justice, it is really traumatic to see the collapse of a structure like that,” DeSantis told reporters. “We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors.”

With residents removed from the intact portion of the building, Chief Jadallah explained that search and rescue efforts are entirely focused on the rubble, working from above and below the wreckage.

Throughout the night, rescue teams heard sounds inside the rubble and directed their efforts to the source, Jadallah said.

Heavy machinery is used to pull metal from above and locate voids, while light machinery such as jackhammers and saws are used to tunnel beneath. They are also using microphones and sonar for hearing sounds from under the debris.

“It could be steel twisting, it could be debris raining down, but not specifically sounds of tapping or human voice,” said Jadallah.

The building has been undergoing its 40-year inspection, with roof construction already underway. It is unclear if the construction was a catalyst for the collapse.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Never. Nothing even close,” Kenneth Direktor, attorney for the Champlain Towers Condominium Association, commented. “And there are a lot of buildings around Florida that have already done their 40-year certification and needed extensive work, but nothing like this happened. Which is why I don’t think we’re anywhere near a point where we can develop an understanding of what caused this or find any correlation between the 40-year certification and what happened to this building.”

There is speculation that the construction of a neighboring building may have a hand in the collapse of the Champlain Towers.

“This building has been under a lot of scrutiny lately with the 40-year recertification of the building and with the 88 Park building going up next door to the south,” explained Surfside Commissioner Charles Kesl. “There were garage underground issues related to that, to make sure that it was done soundly.

“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.”

While the American Red Cross is looking after the survivors in hotels, all building residents have been successfully evacuated. At the same time, first responders continue their search for survivors.

A family reunification center has been established at a community center on 9301 Collins Avenue for anyone looking for unaccounted or missing relatives.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue tweeted a request to all building residents to complete a Wellness Check form to ensure that all of them are located.

Those looking for their loved ones or reporting that they have been found should call 305-614-1819.

An emergency information hotline has also been created — 305-993-1071.

 

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