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Woman in critical condition after trying to rappel from apartment building

Another woman questioned as detectives investigate cause of fire

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A woman is in critical condition after she tried to rappel from the third floor of her apartment building after a fire erupted Friday morning, authorities said. 

The fire was reported about 4 a.m. Friday at the seven-story building at 3621 Collins Ave. Authorities said it started in an elevator shaft. 

According to Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez, detectives are investigating the fire as a possible case of arson.

He said a woman was taken into custody for questioning, but has not been arrested.

Residents of the apartment building said there was so much smoke, they could barely see anything and had to feel their way out of the building.

"Such a relief that the back stairway was available," Philamina Williams, who was displaced by the fire, said. 

Residents said they were sleeping when someone came knocking on their doors to alert them that something was wrong.

"Around 4 a.m., I was doing my rounds next to the building at Westgate Resorts. As I was coming around, I heard two people screaming, 'Help me! Help me! Help me!' And I smelt a lot of smoke. So as I was walking around the corner, I literally see smoke," James Belizaire said. 

Authorities said the woman who tried to rappel down from the building to escape was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where she is listed in critical condition.

According to Rodriguez, the woman was using a bedlinen to rappel down the building and fell. He said she is expected to survive her injuries. 

Two other people were taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation. 

Authorities said there are 30 units inside the building. The American Red Cross is assisting those who have been displaced. 

"I just wanna go home, and I'm worried about my cat and I'm hungry," displaced resident Linda Bladholm said. 

"Very scared. (It) makes you understand why you need to be prepared for situations you're not ready for," Williams said. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation and authorities deemed the building unsafe.