Condo collapse live updates: Senator sees rescue crews pull bodies pulled from rubble

6/25/2021: Click here for new updates on the Surfside building collapse.

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Rescue crews are continuing to search through the rubble for survivors after a 12-story oceanfront condo tower partially collapsed early Thursday in Surfside, just north of Miami Beach.

Part of Champlain Towers South Condo, 8777 Collins Ave., the portion that crumbled, faces the beach.

Families and loved ones who have relatives who live or work at the Champlain Towers and are unaccounted for or are known to be safe should call 305-614-1819 to notify officials. Anyone who lives at the Champlain Towers and is safe is asked to complete a Wellness Check form to help the county ensure all tenants of the buildings are located.

Here’s what we know so far:

Miami Beach state Sen. Jason Pizzo was at the scene early Friday morning, where he watched as tactical teams of six worked to pull bodies from the rubble.
Miami Beach state Sen. Jason Pizzo was at the scene early Friday morning, where he watched as tactical teams of six worked to pull bodies from the rubble.

A grim scene

12:24 a.m. Friday: Miami Beach state Sen. Jason Pizzo was at the scene early Friday morning, where he watched as tactical teams of six worked to pull bodies from the rubble.

He saw one body taken in a yellow body bag and another that was marked.

A homicide unit tent was set up along the beach, Pizzo said, and staff under Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Dr. Emma Lew were carrying the yellow bags.

In Washington, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration in Florida, clearing the way for federal assistance.

“The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts,” according to a White House statement early Friday.

Families await DNA swab results to help in identifications

12:01 a.m. Friday: Dozens of families were staying put at the family reunification center, as the clock neared the first 24 hours since the building collapse, when a gust of wind and rain forced people seated outside the center to take refuge under the building’s central walkway.

Close to midnight, it was a soggy scene. Some relatives of the victims, who had been there since the morning, were awaiting results to DNA swabs that would help identify their loved ones. Volunteers continued to bring in vegetables in sloppy, wet boxes, and others offered T-shirts, towels and blankets.

Nearby, at the scene of the collapse on 88th Street, rescuers were still searching through the rubble around midnight. Local 10 cameras captured as one body wrapped in a yellow bag was brought out of the debris.

After the rain subsided, dust and smoke from the ongoing work on the partially destroyed structure had not settled.

‘I could hear people crying and screaming for help.’ Survivors share stories of collapse

8 p.m.: As part of the Champlain Towers South began to come down, surviving residents wondered what was happening around them.

A thunderstorm. An explosion. An earthquake.

But no one knew, or yet knows, exactly what happened early Thursday morning.

Marian Lopez thought an earthquake might’ve hit their longtime home. Alfredo Lopez thought maybe something had exploded at the hotel next door. After the collapse, once they’d worked to escape to safety they heard voices from the wreckage.

“I could hear people crying and screaming for help,” Lopez said.

Read more here.

Many in need of aid after condo collapse. Here is how to give or receive help.

6 p.m.: Rescue efforts continue hours after the partial collapse of Champlain Towers South Condo, with survivors searching for aid after they rushed from their homes with few belongings.

Organizations and charities across Florida have started relief efforts to help victims during this disaster. Groups such as the Shul of Bal Harbour have created an online donation fund, which has raised more than $160,000.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also opened up resources for impacted businesses and displaced residents to get the help they need.

If you are an impacted business or resident, or would like to help in relief efforts, read more here.

As many as 99 people are reported missing, Miami-Dade police director says

3 p.m.: As many as 99 people are reported missing and 53 people have been accounted for, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said. At least one person was confirmed dead earlier in the day.

Ramirez’s top aide, Lt. Carlos Rosario, cautioned that the count may not be accurate and that the numbers are just “the best we have right now.”

Rosario said the 53 who are accounted for are either residents of the building or they were supposed to be there when it collapsed. He wasn’t certain how county officials arrived at the number of missing people, and said it could be a combination of people coming forward saying a friend or relative is missing, property records or a list of names supplied by a property manager.

Miami-Dade was flooded with reports of missing persons after the collapse. A report from the county’s Emergency Operations Center on Thursday afternoon received more than 700 missing-person reports from a county hotline and web page set up for feared victims of the collapse.

Authorities have winnowed that list down to the 99 unaccounted for.

Read the full story here.

‘Like in a war zone,’ rabbi says

2 p.m: Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, the spiritual leader at the Shul of Bal Harbour, the sprawling Orthodox synagogue just four blocks from the condo collapse, spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon outside the Surfside Community Center, which is serving as the family reunification center, minutes before Gov. Ron DeSantis arrived.

“I have to say the sensation here is like in a war zone,” Lipskar said. “It feels exactly like 9/11.”

He said a vigil at his synagogue began at 1 p.m. and will be ongoing. He couldn’t give an exact number of the Shul members among those missing and injured, but said it is “a lot.”

“There are certain things you can talk about it but you can’t say anything,” the rabbi said. “No words can contain the real of what happened.”

Asked by a reporter how the Jewish community of Surfside can move forward from an event like this, Lipskar said, “Jewish people have faced adversity throughout our history.”

He said one of the urgent tasks now will be helping families displaced by the crash find temporary places to live.

- Marie-Rose Sheinerman

‘It’s a tragic day,’ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said

1:37 p.m: First responders are still in “search and rescue mode” and are “doing what they can to save lives,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a Thursday afternoon news conference one block away from the Champlain tower.

He was taken to see the collapse and said it looked worse than what media images were capturing.

“The TV doesn’t do it justice,” he said. “It is really, really traumatic to see the collapse of a massive structure like that.”

DeSantis thanked first responders for working around the clock searching for survivors and said engineers will help determine what went wrong.

“You’re not going to have those answers immediately,” he said.

Miami Heat brings water, food to first responders searching for survivors

12:04 p.m.: Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro, assistant coaches Chris Quinn and Eric Glass and other team representatives visited first responders near the site of the partially collapsed building in Surfside on Thursday afternoon to drop off cases of bottled water, snacks and meals.

“We heard about this in the morning and we heard that the first responders have been on scene here since 2 a.m.,” said Steve Stowe, who is the vice president and executive director of the Miami Heat Charitable Fund and was part of the team’s group that visited Surfside on Thursday. “So I rounded up Tyler Herro, Chris Quinn and Eric Glass, and we loaded up the Kia Heat truck and a couple other trucks filled with water and snacks and food for the front liners. Kind of like what we do when [Hurricane] Irma hit or when any of these tragedies happen, and we went to ground zero and unloaded all the supplies. They spoke to the first responders just to lift their spirits a little bit.”

Stowe noted that the Heat’s partners, World Central Kitchen and Direct Relief, were on their way “to deliver more hot meals and food trucks and help with some of the displaced victims.”

“The bigger picture is this is going to be going on for a while,” Stowe added. “But we wanted to just get there and show everybody that we’re with them and it’s really nice that Tyler took the time this morning to do that.”

In a statement on Twitter, the Heat said, “We were devastated to hear of the catastrophic Champlain Towers building collapse in Surfside. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We are thankful for the first responders who are working around the clock in rescue efforts.”

“We do have a platform at the Heat that we’ve had many experiences with,” Stowe said. “It’s bigger than us, it’s bigger than the games, it’s bigger than the playoffs going on right now. You just serve, jump in and that’s it, and figure out how to just help. To have Tyler say, ‘Let’s go. I’m coming with you’ in the rain really is just what we’re about.”

- Anthony Chiang

President Biden offers FEMA aid after Surfside condo collapse

President Joe Biden spoke with Miami-Dade’s mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, by phone Thursday, offering support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other aid from Washington.

At 12:09 p.m., Levine Cava’s Twitter feed posted a photo of her sitting at a desk in the Surfside building being used as a reunification center for families of Champlain Towers residents, with Biden on speaker phone as county aides listened.

“Just got off the phone with @POTUS. He offered the full support of the federal gov. to help our community during this difficult time,” the post read. “We continue to work with local, state, & federal agencies as we respond to this tragedy and do everything we can to support the impacted families.”

Rachel Johnson, communications director for Levine Cava, said Biden “offered any other federal resources we need” and “expressed his deep concern for the families.”

‘We’re bracing for some bad news,’ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says

At a news conference at Hillsborough Community College Thursday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the quick work of first responders saved lives after the partial collapse at the Champlain Towers condominium in Surfside, but he warned, “We are bracing for some bad news given the destruction that we’re seeing.”

The governor said he had spoken with the mayors of Surfside and Bal Harbour and he would be traveling to the area later.

“I just want to thank everybody who responded to the condo collapse down in Surfside, and we had a major, major structure and one side of it collapsed in the wee hours of the morning,’‘ he said.

Read the full story here.

American Red Cross assisting Surfside condo collapse survivors

The American Red Cross is providing food at the family reunification center, located at the Surfside Community Center, and is helping displaced residents find a place to stay.

Trained Red Cross volunteers are also providing mental health support to help survivors in the aftermath of the disaster.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by the Surfside building collapse,” said Siara Campbell, the organization’s regional communications director for South Florida.”We appreciate the outpouring of support and community members reaching out to the Red Cross to offer their help during this challenging moment.”

Campbell said the American Red Cross currently has all the resources and assistance it needs and that it will continue to work with local officials and community partners to determine how it can best support the Surfside community in the days ahead.

- Michelle Marchante

Tips on how to survive, escape a collapsing building in wake of Florida condo disaster

The tragedy has now left people wondering: Is there anything you could do to boost your chances of surviving a building collapse?

There are tips, including having a family emergency survival kit and avoiding the elevator.

Read the full story here.

Half of condo units collapsed, Miami-Dade mayor says

People look at the rubble at Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, located at 8777 Collins Avenue. Part of the building collapsed in the early morning of Thursday, June 24, 2021.
People look at the rubble at Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside, located at 8777 Collins Avenue. Part of the building collapsed in the early morning of Thursday, June 24, 2021.

“What we know at this point is that The Champlain Tower South is a 12-story building. It’s more than 130 units, and about half of those have collapsed,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a news conference early Thursday.

Miami-Dade County Assistant Fire Chief Ray Jadallah said 35 survivors were pulled out. Ten were treated at the scene and two were taken to the hospital.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed at least one person has died. Authorities anticipate more fatalities but wouldn’t speculate at the number.

Rescuers rush to free trapped child in Surfside building collapse. Parents missing

Rescuers were desperately trying to get to a trapped child who was discovered by a rescue dog at the Champlain Towers shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday.

The searchers believe the child’s parents may have been killed by the surrounding rubble, said Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management.

“It’s bad,” he said.

In an early rescue, Rollason said crews saved a mother and her child, but the mother’s leg had to be amputated to get her out of the shifting rubble.

Read the full story here.

Hotline and community center set up to reunite families at condo collapse in Surfside

A reunification hotline and center have been set up to reunite families with loved ones from Champlain Towers South, the oceanfront building in Surfside that partially collapsed early Thursday.

Families who have relatives who live or work at the building and are unaccounted for or know that they are safe should call 305-614-1819 to notify officials, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the agency taking the lead in the search-and-rescue mission.

The family reunification base, at the Surfside Community Center, is at 9301 Collins Ave., a few blocks north of the condo.

Read the full story here.

Here’s how the condo collapse near Miami Beach will worsen rush hour traffic

Rush hour drivers who usually take Collins Avenue and Harding Avenue in Miami Beach near the 79th Street Causeway or the Broad Causeway should use alternate routes after Thursday morning’s building collapse in Surfside.

Southbound Collins Avenue traffic, for example, is being sent west at 96th Street, where Bal Harbour turns into Surfside and southbound Collins turns into one-way Harding Avenue. That means more of a traffic slog on Kane Concourse in Bay Harbor Islands and the Broad Causeway, which ends at Northeast 123rd Street on the mainland.

An alternate route might be to head up to Northeast 163rd Street and take that over to the mainland.

See the full list of detours and alternate routes here.

Champlain Towers South was built in the 1980s and is on the oceanfront

The Champlain Towers South Condo at 8777 Collins Ave is 40 years old. It was completed in 1981 with more than 100 units.

The oceanside property is a block north of Miami Beach city limits. The town of Surfside runs along Collins Avenue, south of Bal Harbour. Condos and motels line Collins Avenue.

It also has two sister buildings, Champlain Towers North and Champlain Towers East.

Condos recently for sale in the building were listed at $600,000 to $699,000, according to multiple real estate websites.

To live at Champlain Towers South Condo comes with a hefty price tag.

Read the full story here.

At least 1 dead, 10 injured as search and rescue continues

A 12-story oceanfront condo tower partially collapsed early Thursday morning on Collins Avenue in the town of Surfside, spurring a massive search-and-rescue effort with dozens of rescue crews from across Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Part of Champlain Towers South Condo, completed in 1981 with more than 100 units at 8777 Collins Ave., collapsed before 1:30 a.m. A portion of the building facing the beach crumbled, leaving a heap of rubble.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett confirmed that 10 people were treated for injuries on-site, two transported to the hospital, and at least one person has died. Authorities anticipate more fatalities.