1 dead, 51 missing after building collapse in Miami Jewish neighborhood

Written by on June 24, 2021

Officials have confirmed that at least one person is dead and 51 unaccounted for after a building partially collapsed in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, early Thursday morning. The Miami-Dade mayor, speaking at a press conference, expressed the fear that the building could collapse entirely. 

Among the missing are the family members of Paraguay’s First Lady, according to a recent tweet. A total of 6 people from Paraguay are missing at this time. 

El @mreparaguay comunica que está realizando un monitoreo permanente sobre el derrumbe de un edificio residencial en Miami, EEUU . Hasta el momento, se registran 6 paraguayos desaparecidos.

— Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (@mreparaguay) June 24, 2021

As of now, half the units in the building have collapsed, according to Miami-Dade mayor. 

A thunderstorm has has paused rescue operations, CNN reported, citing a county official.

— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) June 24, 2021

Officials also believe there may be multiple fatalities. Thirty-five people were evacuated from the building according to the Miami-Dade fire chief, and two survivors were pulled from the rubble. The mayor said 15 families walked out of the building. The Miami-Dade mayor states she has spoken to President Biden in a recent tweet.

Just got off the phone with @POTUS. He offered the full support of the federal gov. to help our community during this difficult time. 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. pic.twitter.com/BQ4od1Fhdx

— Daniella Levine Cava (@MayorDaniella) June 24, 2021

Ten people were treated on-site and two were taken to the hospital, however CBS is reporting that there have been nine hospitalizations so far. One of those hospitalized was the single confirmed fatality so far, according to the mayor. He added that there are likely residents of several apartments still unaccounted for. The 12-story building, called Champlain Towers, is located at 8777 Collins Avenue next to 88th Street, in the heart one of Miami’s most Jewish neighborhoods. It was built in 1981. 

A hotel next-door was evacuated since they can’t guarantee that the buildings are stable.

“It’s hard to imagine how this can happen,” the mayor said. “Buildings don’t just fall down.”

Barry Cohen, 63, has lived in the building since 2018 and was in a deep sleep when part of the building came down. 

“We looked out on our balcony and there was dust pluming out,” he said. “We could see the outside from the inside.”

Cohen and other residents of the building were rescued by Miami Dade Fire Rescue. 

“They are able to rescue some people… but I heard some screams,” a resident of the building told NBC Miami’s Sam Brock. “I lost a lot of friends, part of the building is pancaked.”

Witnesses told Local 10 news that people were stuck inside the southern tower of the building. Rescue crews are currently working to remove people from the wreckage. One dramatic video published by WSVN 7 News from Miami shows firefighters pulling a minor out of the rubble. 

— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) June 24, 2021

An image posted on Miami Beach Police’s Twitter account showed a tangle of rubble with debris spilling down from what was left of the balconies of the building in the darkness. The reason for the collapse is unknown.

— Izzy (@YWNReporter) June 24, 2021

Some 2,500 Orthodox Jews lived in Surfside in 2018, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. It’s across the street from Harding Avenue, which is home to a plethora of kosher restaurants and grocery stores. 

The Jewish community grew rapidly in the 1980s after years of antisemitism in the area. At the center of the community, and down the block from the collapse, is The Shul. It was founded by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and developed into a main community center. 

The collapse also occurred within walking distance of popular area hotels such as the Four Seasons, the Grand Beach and the St. Regis. 

If you are looking for family members, you can call 305-614-1819. A family reunification center has been established at 9301 Collins Avenue. Emergency information can be found by calling 305-993-1071. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

This is a developing story.

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