Rescue workers scouring the debris of a collapsed apartment building in Surfside, Miami say they heard sounds in the rubble, as officials raised the number of people unaccounted for to 159 and the confirmed death toll to four.
- Local police are working with the medical examiner’s office to identify the four victims
- Officials said 120 people have been found in the search but another 159 are missing
- The rescue mission continued throughout the night and is ongoing
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters that three more bodies were pulled from the wreckage overnight local time.
Police Director Freddy Ramirez said authorities were working with the medical examiner’s office to identify the victims.
The mayor also increased the number of presumed missing after authorities put the number at 99 after the building’s collapse.
She said 120 people had been accounted for.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Ray Jadallah said they heard sounds in the rubble overnight, but said it could be either falling debris or people tapping.
“We are listening for sounds, human sounds and tapping,” he said, as rescuers used shovels and jackhammers to tunnel under the debris to find pockets where survivors could be.
On Thursday, search teams detected sounds of banging and other noises but no voices coming from the mounds of debris.
Early that morning, a large section of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, a barrier island town across Biscayne Bay from the city of Miami, crumbled to the ground, authorities said.
Footage captured by a security camera nearby showed an entire side of the building suddenly folding in two sections, one after the other, at about 1:30am, throwing up clouds of dust.
Ms Cava said that rescue teams were “incredibly motivated” to find anyone who might have survived the collapse.
US President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration in the state of Florida and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts.
What caused the 40-year-old high-rise to cave in was not immediately known, although local officials said the 12-story tower was undergoing roof construction and other repairs.
Officials said the complex, built in 1981, was going through a recertification process requiring repairs, with another building under construction on an adjacent site.
The Champlain Towers South had more than 130 units, about 80 of which were occupied.
It had been subject to various inspections recently due to the recertification process and the adjacent building construction, Surfside Commissioner Charles Kesl told Miami television station WPLG Local 10.