Surfside – Hundreds of fire and rescue workers scoured through tons of rubble early Thursday after a 12-story oceanfront residential building partially collapsed just north of Miami Beach, leaving at least one person dead and at least 10 injured, officials said.
A fire official said 35 people were rescued from the building, built in 1981, including two who were pulled from the rubble as response teams used trained dogs in a search for survivors, reported Reuters.
The condominium building in Surfside, Florida, about 24km north of Miami, had more than 130 units, according to NBC Miami. Officials have said about 80 were occupied.
It was unclear how many people were inside at 2am, when an entire side of the building pulled away and fell to the ground below.
“It’s hard to imagine how this could have happened,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told reporters. “Buildings just don’t fall down.”
Construction work was being done on the roof, he said, but it was unclear whether the project involved any heavy gear.
Footage from WPLG Local 10, a Miami TV station, showed a rescue team pulling a boy from piles of debris and rebar, and firefighters using ladder trucks to rescue residents trapped on balconies.
Burkett said that part of the building with balconies facing the beach “pancaked” where one floor appears to have fallen atop another, cascading down.
“The back of the building, probably a third or more, is totally pancaked,” he said.
He said the collapse appeared to have affected 30 units in the building.
Resident Barry Cohen and his wife were rescued from the building.
“At first it sounded like a flash of lightning or thunder,” Cohen, a former vice-mayor of Surfside and a resident of the building, told reporters at the scene. “But then it just kept on – steadily for at least 15 to 30 seconds – it just kept on going and going and going.”
Cohen also said there had been construction for more than a month on the building’s roof.
The Miami-Dade Police have assumed control of the investigation. More than 80 fire and rescue units responded, the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department wrote in a Twitter message early Thursday.
Eyewitness video obtained by Reuters showed neighbours gathering across the street from the rubble.
“This whole building here, it’s completely gone,” a person can be heard saying.