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Miami-area condo collapses, killing at least 1 person

(A partial collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. AP Photo: Wilfredo Lee)

By WILFREDO LEE, SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP):- The sea-view side of a beachfront condo tower collapsed in the Miami-area town of Surfside early Thursday morning, killing at least one, trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal and sending a cloud of debris throughout the neighborhood.

Scores of rescue units rushed to the partially collapsed building and firefighters were seen pulling survivors from the concrete debris.

In a tweet, Miami-Dade police said one person has died in the collapse.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said during a news conference that the building manager told him the building was substantially full.

“The building is literally pancaked,” Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean to me that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”

Ten people were treated at the scene and two were brought to the hospital, one of whom died, Burkett said. He also said 15 families walked out of the building on their own.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like this happen,” he said.

Santo Mejil, 50, told the Miami Herald his wife called him from the building, where she was working as an aide for an elderly woman.

“She said she heard a big explosion. It felt like an earthquake,” Mejil told the newspaper. He said she later called him and said rescuers were bringing her down.

Miami Dade Fire Rescue was conducting search and rescue operations, and said in a tweet that more than 80 units were “on scene with assistance from municipal fire departments.”

“We’re on the scene so it’s still very active,” said Sgt. Marian Cruz of the Surfside Police Department. “What I can tell you is the building is twelve floors. The entire back side of the building has collapsed.”

Burkett said roof work was being done on the building, but added that roofing work goes on in other buildings and he did not see how that could have caused the building to collapse.

Teams of fire fighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.

The collapse left a number of units in the still-standing part of the building exposed. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs still left inside the damaged apartments. Air conditioner units were hanging from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.

Police blocked nearby roads, and scores of fire and rescue vehicles, ambulances and police cars swarmed the area.

The debris from the collapse coated cars up to two blocks away with a light layer of dust.

Photos and video from the scene show the collapse affected half the tower. Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area just outside the building. The department has yet to say what may have caused the collapse.

The sea-view condo development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside, on the beach. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000.

The area is a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. The community provides a stark contrast from bustle and glitz of South Beach with a slower paced neighborhood feel.

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This story has been corrected to show that Sgt. Marian Cruz works for the Surfside Police Department, not Miami Dade Fire Rescue.

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Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro in Fort Lauderdale and Ian Mader in Miami contributed to this report.

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