Rainy night, lack of stability challenge heroes at building collapse site in Surfside

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Search-and-rescue teams had been training for a tragedy that they had hoped would never come. All of their work after earthquakes overseas had paid off. Their experience would help them find survivors on Thursday in Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside.

Shortly before 2 a.m., a part of the L-shaped Chaplain Towers South, at 8777 Collins Ave., crumbled. It was dark, cloudy, and windy. Residents of the 12-story building panicked. Fire Rescue personnel had to evacuate the southern section and search for survivors in the northern area.

“At 6 a.m. this morning, we shifted our operations from the inside of the building to underneath the rubble,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah.

The rain flooded some of the air pockets. Dogs, drones, and modern technology such as passive infrared sensors to detect heat radiation were on their side.

There were many moments of hope. A group of heroes pulled a boy from under the rubble. The boy wrapped his arms around tightly around a firefighter. There were more than 80 units from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Many agencies responded to help.

Rescuers had to get people out of balconies that lacked stability. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said there were more than 130 units and 55 had collapsed.

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said there was ongoing roof work in the building, which was in the process of recertification. Structural inspections were required.

President Joe Biden’s administration stepped in to help after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an emergency order. The Federal Emergency Management Agency first dispatched two teams.

Complete coverage


About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.