At least 156 missing after partial building collapse near Miami

By Fernando Alfonso III, Maureen Chowdhury, Zamira Rahim and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 7:03 a.m. ET, June 27, 2021
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5:59 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021

Search and rescue crews include members from Mexico and Israel

From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch

There are four task force teams working on search and rescue efforts at the disaster site, Miami-Dade Fire Chief Alan Comisky said in a press conference Friday.

The team includes Florida Task Force 1, which consists of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue firefighters and three other task force teams from the state.

Task force members from Mexico and Israel, who arrived at the site Friday, are also taking part in search and rescue efforts. 

While the collapse happened on US soil, the impact of the building collapse stretches far beyond US borders. 

Dozens of citizens from countries across Latin America are missing, including those from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay.

Firefighters spray water at the debris of the partially collapsed building in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, on June 25.
Firefighters spray water at the debris of the partially collapsed building in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, on June 25. Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

5:14 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021

Families left searching for loved ones as rescue efforts continue

People watch recovery operations near the site of an oceanfront condo building that partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, Friday, June 25.
People watch recovery operations near the site of an oceanfront condo building that partially collapsed in Surfside, Florida, Friday, June 25. Gerald Herbert/AP

At least 159 people remain missing after the building's partial collapse, leaving many family members frantic for information.

Sarina Patel told CNN that her uncle, his pregnant wife and their one-year-old daughter were all missing.

"We had tried calling them countless times, and there's just been no answers," she said.
"We have a large extended family. They always stay in touch with someone everyday. They haven't contacted anybody. We've called multiple hospitals within that area and there's no sight of them anywhere."

Patel said the family were still hopeful "and praying for a miracle."

"We haven't received much updates yet," she said, adding that her uncle's mother had provided a DNA sample in case authorities require it for identification.

"The last time I spoke to [the missing family] was on Sunday," Patel said.

"I had actually called them to tell them I had just booked a flight to come visit, because they've been asking me to come see their home. And to meet their daughter, I haven't met her due to the pandemic."

Rescue efforts continue at the site.

4:23 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021

Florida authorities advise residents to avoid smoke from collapse site

From CNN's Dave Alsup

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has advised people living near the Surfside Building to stay indoors due to the smoke coming from the debris. 

“If you live near the area of the #SurfsideBuildingCollapse, you may be experiencing smoky conditions, which can affect those with respiratory conditions," Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said in a tweet.

"Please stay indoors, keep your windows and doors closed, and run your a/c by recirculating the air inside your home."

4:34 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021

It could take months to know the cause of the building collapse

From CNN's Aya Elamroussi and Hollie Silverman

Two days after the catastrophic partial collapse of a residential building in South Florida, officials remained focused on the search for the dozens of people believed to be under the mountain of rubble as an expert suggested it may be months before the cause of the disaster is known.

While anxious family members awaited some news -- and the search continued through the night -- officials urged for a powerful sentiment: Hope.

I am holding out hope because our first responders tell me they have hope," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told CNN.

"They are the ones on the ground. They are in the tunnels; they're in the water; they're on top of the rubble pile. They're helping to sift through using the cameras, the dogs, the sonar, and they say they have hope."

An emotional Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Andy Alvarez echoed the sentiment in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "There's always hope," he said. "We're doing everything we can to bring your family member out alive."

Read more:

4:24 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021

Survivor: 'I thought the building was struck by lightning'

Two survivors who escaped the building told CNN that the disaster was a surreal and terrifying experience.

Albert and Janette Aguero were on vacation with their two children, aged 22 and 14, when they were woken up by a "loud, thunderous sound" as the condo collapsed.

The family were staying on the building's 11th floor.

"I thought the building was struck by lightning," Albert said.

"Then [Janette] realizes that the chandeliers and the lights in the apartment are all swinging back and forth, so we know it's something more than just a storm."

He added: "We've lived through Hurricane Sandy. It wasn't that."

Janette said that the family soon realized they needed to leave the building but that "the elevator was gone." Parts of the wall by the stairwell had also been destroyed, leaving the stairs open to the elements.

Janette added that it was "a mad dash to get down" the stairs and out of the building.

"It was pitch dark," Albert said. "I'm thinking...we're racing against the clock because the rest of the building is going to come down."

"It was surreal, it was scary, it was terrifying," his wife said.

The family were unhurt apart from a few minor scratches.

"I couldn't make sense of any of it. I felt like...why?," Janette Aguero told CNN. "Why did we get out? And how did we get out?"

5:15 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021

What is a pancake collapse and why it's dangerous

From CNN's Scottie Andrew

Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 25, in Surfside, Florida.
Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 25, in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It's still not fully clear what caused an oceanfront condo tower in Surfside, Florida, to partially collapse, sending some units in the 12-story building plummeting to the ground.

Experts are still looking to determine the exact contributing factors that led to the catastrophe. But from what investigators know, the building appears to have fallen in a "pancake collapse," Miami-Dade Fire Rescue District Chief Jason Richard told CNN, though evidence of other types of collapses are present, too. 

Pancake collapses are dangerous and severe, and their damage can complicate search-and-rescue efforts. Here's how they happen.

About pancake collapses: Pancake collapses are so named for the way collapsing floors land and stack as they fall, said Gregg Favre, executive director of the St. Louis Regional Response Systems, a former commanding officer with the St. Louis Fire Department and experienced special rescue team member.

"Pancake collapses tend to 'stack' floors on themselves, bringing all their weight down nearly square on the floor below," Favre told CNN. "This continues down, accumulating more weight and stress as the structure falls."

A pancake collapse is a "progressive failure" that often begins at the bottom: A load-bearing element is damaged, usually in a building's lower floors or foundation, which triggers the top floors to collapse vertically into the floors below, said Necati Catbas, a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering at the University of Central Florida. "Once there is 'no' support at the bottom floors or foundation, the top floors start pounding on the from top to bottom in progressive manner," Catbas said in an email to CNN.

Why they're dangerous: A pancake collapse is more dangerous than other collapses, Favre said, because there are often few voids, or pockets of space and air, in the rubble.  "The sheer tonnage of materials ... makes it very difficult for void spaces to exist," Favre said.

Pancake collapses also complicate search-and-rescue missions, he said, because the structures that remain near the collapse site are unstable and could fall as rescuers move through the rubble. 

Voids can still be present, though, particularly when multiple kinds of collapses are present, as in the incident in Surfside, said urban search and rescue expert Scott Goldstein.

Goldstein told CNN there was evidence of four collapse types in the Surfside incident. Aside from a pancake collapse, that includes a V-shaped collapse, when the center of the floor collapses and creates voids on either side; a lean-to collapse, when a floor collapses on one side while the other side is still attached to a wall; and a cantilever collapse, when one wall supporting floors is damaged but the opposite wall is intact. Void spaces are more likely in V-shaped, lean-to and cantilever collapses.

Read more here.

4:22 a.m. ET, June 26, 2021

How to help Surfside building collapse victims

From CNN's Ashley Vaughan

Rescue workers are digging through rubble and debris looking for signs of life after Thursday morning's building collapse in the town of Surfside, just north of Miami, Florida. Around 1:30 a.m., an estimated 55 condominiums fell to the ground, most of them with residents asleep inside.

As families wait in agony for updates on missing loved ones, there are ways you can ensure they don't face this situation alone. Organizations are on the ground to help.

Here is how you can support them — even from miles away. To donate to some of the organizations featured click here.

The American Red Cross is helping displaced residents find safe places. The group is also offering emotional and spiritual support to the survivors. To donate click here.

World Central Kitchen is serving hot meals to the Surfside community to make sure displaced residents and rescue crews are fed as they face the unexpected.

ATJC Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center is collecting donations for individuals and families impacted by the collapse. The organization is asking for urgent items including sheets, pillows, phone chargers, and snack food.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is responding to the crisis. To report missing loved ones, call 305-614-1819. You can also file an online missing persons report. Residents who live within the partially collapsed tower are asked to fill out this wellness check form. For free bilingual emotional support, call 833-848-1762.