At least four people are dead and 159 are unaccounted for after a high-rise condo building collapsed in Surfside, Florida, early Thursday morning while people were sleeping.
The death toll rose to four after the remains of three people were pulled from the rubble overnight. Search and rescue teams are continuing to work around the clock — combing through twisted steel and concrete — in hopes of finding any survivors.
As the cause of the building collapse remained unknown Friday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, “We have to figure out: Why did this happen?”
“That answer isn’t necessarily apparent right now, but it will be identified,” he said. “And I think that anyone who was affected by this directly wants that answer, but also, we need to know: Is this a bigger issue or is this something unique to the building?”
The tower was built 41 years ago on reclaimed wetlands. CBS Miami quotes Florida International University earth and environment professor Shimon Wdowinski as saying the land under the building was slowly sinking for decades. The sinking was measured at a rate of two millimeters a year during the 1990s. But he stressed that alone wouldn’t cause a building to collapse.
Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told the Miami Herald that a resident of the building told her it was “shaking” during construction over the past few years in the building next door.
The lawyer for the building’s condo association, Ken Direktor, told CBS Miami it was undergoing a required 40-year recertification but “nothing appeared either to the engineers or to any of the residents that suggests anything like this was imminent. Nothing.”
The 12-story structure that fell to the ground had 136 units. Officials said 55 on the northeast side were involved in the collapse, which left mounds of debris for searchers to sift through.
“It is heart-wrenching to see people’s lives on full display. Everything from small – small personal items, stuffed animals, toys, people’s livelihoods, obviously everything on full display,” Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez said on “CBS This Morning.” “It is just tragic.”
President Biden has declared a state of emergency in Florida, on top of the ones declared by DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.