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Here’s What We Know About The Surfside Building Collapse: 4 Dead, 159 People Missing

large building half crumbled, half-standing, beach in foreground
Daniel Rivero
View of the partial building collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside

Search and rescue efforts continue in Surfside after the partial collapse of a 12-story building early Thursday morning.

As of Friday evening, officials have confirmed that at least four people are dead, dozens have been rescued, 127 people have been accounted for and 159 people have been reported as missing.

Fire and rescue officials said about 55 apartment units were destroyed by the collapse, which happened on the northeast side of the Champlain Towers South building. The complex houses more than 136 units.

Here’s what we know about the situation. This post will be updated.

What’s the latest on the response/recovery effort?

Miami-Dade County launched an emergency response page after the collapse here. The Family Reunification Center, established Thursday, has moved from the Surfside Community Center to the nearby Grand Beach Hotel, 9449 Collins Ave.

Friends and loved ones looking for family members or friends can go to the center or are asked to call 305-614-1819. An emergency hotline was also established at 305-993-1071.

And residents of the tower are being asked to complete this form to help with accounting for additional missing people.

Our news partners at the Miami Herald have compiled a list of missing people here.

READ MORE: 'I Felt The Entire Room Shake.' Partial Building Collapse In Surfside Leaves One Dead, Many Injured

Within Surfside, several services have been impacted:

The town's community center, tennis center and Hawthorne Tot Lot were closed Thursday. The town's PEAR Summer Camp was also canceled for the day. Surfside's scheduled planning and zoning board meeting was also canceled.

All events at the community center have been canceled through, at least, July 6.

The town's Sunday farmers market and a LGBTQ+ Pride event set for Saturday, June 26, have both been canceled. And a pop-up vaccination event set for Sunday, June 27, has been postponed until further notice.

Surfside officials aren't currently seeking donations or volunteers for recovery efforts but if, or when, they become necessary you can fill out this volunteer form and someone from the town will contact you.

How can I support the victims?

We've created this post with a roundup of organizations and individuals offering support to victims. We'll continue to update it with additional information.

What do we know about the cause of the collapse? Was work happening at the building?

Surfside officials, including Vice Mayor Tina Paul, said Thursday morning that the town was in the process of reviewing what structural improvements, if any, the building's 40-year re-certification recommended. The re-certification is required by Miami-Dade County code for any buildings that are 40 years old. And those structural improvements may have included concrete restoration, as some of the building’s residents have reported.

“That I cannot confirm. I mean, usually a 40-year restoration does involve concrete restoration. So – most likely," Paul said.

The Champlain Towers South building was also having its roof reconstructed. The vice mayor also could not confirm reports about some residents' concerns over the heavy weight of roofing materials being placed on top of the complex’s northeast quadrant — the portion that collapsed early Thursday morning.

“All I can say for certain is that they were doing a new roof. I do know that there was an issue with the tar going by people’s windows. But I hadn’t heard anything more," she said.

Paul said much more information about the Champlain’s 40-year inspection will be coming soon from Surfside building officials.

WLRN spoke with John Pistorino the engineer who created the recertification program in 1974, you can find that story here.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced Friday that it plans to send a team to Surfside to potentially investigate the collapse, according to the Herald's Aaron Leibowitz.

Officials from OSHA are also at the scene gathering information, according to the Herald's Doug Hanks.

And, according to RE: Miami Beach and the Herald's Joey Flechas, the cities of Miami Beach and Miami have, respectively, ordered reviews of all 40-year-old buildings and 40-year-old buildings that are six stories or higher.

What's the scene like at the Family Reunification Center?

Many family members and friends are trying to locate missing people that were in the tower. By Friday afternoon, the center had relocated from the Surfside Community Center to the Grand Beach Hotel at 9449 Collins Ave.

On Thursday, Soraya Cohen was looking for her husband, Dr. Brad Cohen, an orthopedic surgeon. He was staying at an apartment on the tenth floor of the building. She says a family friend saw the news at 3 a.m. and started texting him.

"We can't find him. He hasn't responded for 15 hours," she said.

Cohen said the hardest part of the day so far was seeing her 12-year-old daughter's trauma.

"She's, like, in absolute, absolute shock. I woke her up, running into the room like, 'Oh my gosh, you know, the building collapsed and daddy's in there and nobody can find him. Hurry, wake up, we've got to get to the Surfside Community Center,'" she said.

Cohen said she was praying her husband was in a hospital and hadn't been identified yet. She was showing the media at the reunification center photos of him and his brother, who was also in the apartment.

"And if anybody Jewish is listening, please pray for him," she said. "His Hebrew name is Yaskov Reuvein HaCohen ben Devorah."

When did the collapse happen?

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to the call at about 1:30 a.m. at the Champlain Towers building, at 8777 Collins Ave., and began search and rescue efforts in tandem with other law enforcement and emergency response agencies.

How many people have been impacted?

The total amount remains unclear but at least four people have died. The collapse impacted 55 apartment units, dozens have been rescued from the rubble, and 127 people have been accounted for as of Friday evening. Nearly 160 people are still missing.

What’s happening near the scene?

Traffic is still shut down in the area near the collapse — both northbound Collins Avenue and Byron Avenue between 85th and 90th Streets and southbound Harding Avenue between 85th and 91st Streets.

Miami-Dade police also announced that 88th Street would need to be cleared out by 7 p.m. Friday night.

The Miami Beach trolley system is also not serving stops north of 85th Street.

Copyright 2021 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Kristin Moorehead
Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. He has reported on Latin America for almost 30 years - for Newsweek as its Mexico City bureau chief from 1990 to 1996, and for Time as its Latin America bureau chief in Mexico and Miami (where he also covered Florida and the U.S. Southeast) from 1996 to 2013.