Building collapse in US city of Miami leaves 4 dead, dozens missing

2021-06-26 18:34:13
Building collapse in US city of Miami leaves 4 dead, dozens missing

Some 159 people remained unaccounted for on Friday after the collapse of a residential building near Miami, Florida.

Search-and-rescue teams combed through a mountain of debris looking for any signs of life.

The official death toll from Thursday's disaster stood at four and was certain to rise as rescuers battled smoke, fires and the precarious state of the rubble while working in the south Florida heat.

Although the outlook appeared grim, with one floor of the high-rise stacked on another like pancakes, rescuers continued to search the debris in the hopes that pockets had formed, leaving any possible survivors air to breathe.

"We have hope because that's what our search-and-rescue team tells us, that they have hope," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference.

But the number of people unaccounted for remained constant throughout the day, meaning rescuers had not found any bodies or survivors.

Aided by dogs, cameras and sonar, the teams worked the site on a rotation, with a limited number allowed at any one time to prevent further collapse, Levine Cava said.

Atop the pile, some wielded hammers and picks looking for signs of life. Heavy equipment scraped away the top layer.

Below ground, rescuers who entered through the parking garage risked their own lives searching for survivors, occasionally being hit by falling debris, officials said.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue chief Andy Alvarez recalled that his team once pulled a girl out of earthquake debris in Haiti eight days into the rescue effort.

The disaster occurred early on Thursday morning, when many people would have been asleep, as a large section of the 40-year-old high-rise crumbled to the ground.

Video captured by a security camera showed an entire side of the building suddenly folding in two sections, one after the other, at about 1:30 a.m. (0530 GMT), throwing up clouds of dust.

“You don’t think that can happen here in the United States,” said Sergio Lozano Jr., whose grandparents Antonio and Gladys Lozano, both in their 80s, are among the missing.

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