The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue received a call at around 1:30 a.m. local time about a partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in the small, beachside town of Surfside, about 6 miles north of Miami Beach. A massive search and rescue operation was launched before dawn, as crews carefully combed through the wreckage and remaining structure for survivors.
It’s unclear exactly how many residents are missing, but multiple local officials told ABC News there could be as many as 50 unaccounted for based on the number of people in the building.
The Foreign Ministry of Paraguay said six Paraguayan nationals were in the building and still missing: Sophia López-Moreira, the sister of the country’s first lady; her husband, Luis Pettengill; their three children; and their nanny, Lady Luna Villalba. President Mario Abdo Benítez canceled his events due to the incident.
© Joe Raedle/Getty Images A portion of the 12-story condo tower crumbled to the ground during a partially collapse of the building, June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Fla., north of Miami Beach.
So far, crews have rescued 35 people who were trapped in the building and two others from beneath the rubble, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Raide Jadallah.
The oceanfront condominium has 136 units, and approximately 55 of them collapsed on the northeast corridor, according to Jadallah.
© Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP People look at the damage at the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Fla.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett called the collapse a “catastrophe.”
Footage from the scene showed firefighters pulling a boy from the rubble alive and rescuing others from still-standing balconies.MORE: Officer in critical condition after being shot in the head, manhunt on for suspect
Jadallah told reporters that at least 45 people, including those who were rescued, were medically assessed and treated on site. Two of them were subsequently transported to local hospitals, and one has since died.
Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, about 8 miles northwest of Surfside, has received three patientsr. Two have critical injuries while the third is in fair condition, a hospital spokesperson told ABC News.
© South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP Items and debris dangle from a section of the oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that partially collapsed, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis toured the site, telling reporters it was “traumatic to see.”
“It’s a tragic day,” DeSantis said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. “We still have hope to be able to identify additional survivors.”
© Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images Family members and residents of the Champlain Towers South greet each other outside the Town of Surfside Community Center in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, on June 24, 2021.
Burkett, the Surfside mayor, told reporters that the condominium was built in the 1980s and was believed to be substantially full at the time of the partial collapse. The building was undergoing roof work, he said.
Surfside Commissioner Nelly Velasquez told ABC News the building was up for its 40-year recertification.
Some 15 families escaped the building on their own and were put up in a local hotel, according to Burkett. Search dogs did an initial pass around the wreckage when it was still dark and the site was considered dangerous, but there were no signs of survivors at that time, the mayor said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called the situation “unimaginable” and thanked the “brave” rescuers.
“We need to allow them to do their work because every minute in this search can make a huge difference,” she said at a news conference.
© Google Street View/Getty Images The 12-story condo tower in a Google street view image before it collapsed, left, and after, June 24, 2021, in Surfside, Fla., near Miami Beach.
One witness told ABC News that his wife cares for an elderly woman who lives in the condominium and frantically called him around 1:15 a.m. local time, after the units next door came crashing down. He said his wife and the elderly woman both were rescued.
People in neighboring buildings have been evacuated to a local recreational center, another witness told ABC News.
The cause of the collapse is unknown, and the Miami-Dade Police Department is leading an investigation.
“Our goal is to provide a thorough investigation and closure for our families,” Freddy Ramirez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said during the press conference in Surfside on Thursday morning.
Authorities have opened a family assistance center at the Surfside recreational center for individuals unable to locate loved ones who live in the Champlain Towers South. Anyone with family members from the condominium who are either safe or still missing is urged to call 305-614-1819 to account for them.