SURFSIDE, Fla. – Officials say they fear there will be many casualties after a portion of the Champlain Towers South building “pancaked” when it collapsed early Thursday morning.
Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett said the other two-thirds of the building could collapse, as well, so there is a continuing danger for crews at the scene near 88th Street and Collins Avenue.
A hotel next door, the Bluegreen Vacations Solara Surfside resort, was also evacuated because it’s too close to the condominium building.
Although Burkett confirmed that roof work was being done at the condo building, he said there was no reason for the building to go down like that unless there was a sinkhole or someone pulled the supports out of the building.
Former Surfside Vice Mayor Barry Cohen, however, said he believed the roof work and other factors, like a new high rise being constructed next door, may have compromised the integrity of the building.
According to the mayor, firefighters treated 10 people at the scene. He said two people were taken to hospitals, one of whom died while being transported, and 15 families walked out of the building on their own.
A total of 35 people were rescued from the building and at least 99 remain unaccounted for.
A side-by-side before and after photo of the building shows that it was shaped like an L before the collapse.
All units that did not fall in the collapse have been cleared by crews.
First responders told Local 10 News that the search and rescue operation could take perhaps up to a week to complete, if not more.
The American Red Cross is assisting survivors, who will be placed in hotels for the time being.
A family reunification center has been set up for anyone looking for unaccounted or missing relatives at a community center at 9301 Collins Ave.
Those searching for their loved ones or to report that they have been located are asked to call 305-614-1819. An emergency information hotline has also been created -- 305-993-1071.