SURFSIDE, Fla. – Lola Ram is waiting for news of her friend after an unexpected tragedy struck Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside. Many woke up to police sirens. Some ran out of their buildings to see what was happening early Thursday morning.
Shortly before 2 a.m., a 40-year-old condominium building partially collapsed. Juan Triana said his neighboring apartment windows shook. He and his family ran outside and saw some of the survivors were holding flashlights.
Some of the survivors were shouting for help. Fire Rescue personnel and police officers responded to the L-shaped Chaplain Towers South, at 8777 Collins Ave.
“I just heard like people screaming. It was really disturbing,” Triana said, adding many broke down crying.
Ram said her friend is among the 99 people who are unaccounted for on Thursday afternoon. She was among the anguished at 88th Street and Harding Avenue where the ruins of the 12-story building were visible.
“I know I can’t do anything, but I just want to make sure she was OK,” Ram said through tears. “It’s just really traumatizing.”
Search and rescue efforts were ongoing more than 16 hours after the collapse. The dust was settling. Another group of relatives and friends was waiting at the town’s improvized reunification center.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said there was ongoing roof work in the building, which was in the process of recertification. Structural inspections were required. There were more than 130 units damaged. Most of them had views of the ocean or the intercoastal waterway.
President Joe Biden’s administration, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava were waiting for updates on victims and on what caused the partial collapse.
“This is not going to be immediate in terms of what happened but I know they are going to have engineers looking at this to try to identify what happened,” DeSantis said.