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159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse, mayor says

At least four people have died in the incident.

Updated Jun 25th 2021, 1:35 PM

featureimage Rescue workers look through the rubble where a wing of a 12-storey beachfront condo building collapsed Source: Lynne Sladky via PA Images

THE NUMBER OF people unaccounted for following the collapse of a Florida apartment block has risen to 159, the county’s mayor has said.

“We do have 120 people now accounted for, which is very, very good news. But our unaccounted for number has gone up to 159,” Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference.

Authorities have stressed it is still unclear how many people were inside the building when it pancaked in the early hours yesterday, killing at least four people.

Around 55 apartments were affected by the collapse, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah who told a news conference that emergency services arrived at the scene at around 1.30am, evacuating 35 people from the building.

The building was occupied by a mix of full-time and seasonal residents and renters, and officials have stressed it is unclear how many people were actually inside at the time.

“It’s hard to get a count on it,” Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman told CNN. “You don’t know between vacations or anything else,” she said. “The hope is still there, but it’s waning.

embedded260549538 The collapse occurred just after 1am yesterday Source: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via PA Images

‘Bracing for bad news’

Some residents were able to walk down the stairs to safety while others had to be rescued from their balconies.

“It’s a really, really tragic situation so we’ll hope for the best in terms of additional recoveries, but we are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing,” Governor Rob DeSantis told a news conference.

As hope receded of finding more survivors, the focus was on the recovery of possible victims amid the rubble, in a massive operation assisted by drones and dogs and involving dozens of police and firefighter units.

“Apparently when the building came down it pancaked, so there’s just not a lot of voids that they’re finding or seeing from the outside,” Burkett said on NBC’s Today show.

After speaking with mayor Levine Cava, President Joe Biden told reporters his administration stood ready to send emergency resources to Florida “immediately” if requested.

“I say to the people of Florida, whatever help you want, that the federal government can provide, just ask us, we’ll be there,” he said.

embedded260550400 Jennifer Carr, right, sits with her daughter as they wait for news at a family reunification centre following the collapse Source: Lynne Sladky via PA Images

‘Like a bomb went off’

Surfside’s mayor said the reasons for the collapse were still unclear.

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“It looks like a bomb went off, but we’re pretty sure a bomb didn’t go off, so it’s something else,” Burkett said.

Fernandez, the Argentinian resident of Miami, said that when his mother called him in the early hours to say the building had collapsed, he thought it was a joke – and hung up.

“She calls me again and tells me: ‘Nico, you know I would never joke about this. I need you to go over there.’ We came running.”

One witness, 25-year-old Julian Targowski, described the sound of the collapse.

“It was like a very bass-y, like boom boom, boom boom, that kind of thing,” he told local television WFOR.

“Like, a ton of bass on a subwoofer, basically, like just two of them,” he said. “Then my friend texted me that a building had exploded.”

Local media said records showed the block was built in 1981 and had more than 130 units inside.

Heyman told CNN the building had been undergoing construction work on its roof, although she also stressed the reasons for the collapse were not clear.

© – AFP, 2021

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