1 dead, 99 missing in Miami building collapse, many from Jewish community

“It looks like a bomb went off,” said Surfside mayor Charles Burkett.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

At least one person was killed and many more injured after a 12 story condominium building partially collapsed in Surfside, a heavily Jewish suburb of Miami, on Thursday. 99 people are still missing.

Some 50 percent of Surfside’s residents are Orthodox Jews, many of them affiliated with the Chabad Lubavitch movement.

The collapse of the building generated a cloud of debris and dust through the surrounding area, with reports indicating that cars as far as two blocks away were coated with dust.

Footage from the scene circulating on social media showed a giant pile of rubble, with local media reporting 51 people were still missing mid-day on Thursday.

An eyewitness told local news station NBC 6 that the scene resembled “something in one of these Third World countries, just literally collapsed, like a pancake straight down, and there’s just an incredible pile of rubble.”

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told NBC that around one third of the 100 unit building had “pancaked,” leaving “feet [of space] in between stories.

“It’s hard to imagine how this could happen,” he said. “Buildings just don’t fall down…it looks like a bomb went off, but we’re pretty sure a bomb didn’t go off.”

He noted that the building was undergoing roof work, but added that “you would never expect that to be the issue. I think that this is a catastrophic failure of that building.”

As the Miami-Dade fire department carries out a massive search and rescue operation for the “many” residents who were inside the building at the time of the collapse, Burkett thanked the first responders for risking their lives.

“We don’t know if the rest of that building’s gonna come down,” he said.

Barry Cohen, a resident of the building who once served as vice mayor Surfside, was sleeping in his unit on the third floor at the time of the collapse.

While his apartment remained intact, the collapse destroyed the hallway, trapping him inside the unit.

“I couldn’t walk out past my doorway,” he told CNN. The hallway was reduced “to a gaping hole of rubble.”

The building continued to shake as he and his wife waited for rescuers.

“Knowing what it looked like outside my door, I thought that any minute we could be that same pile of rubble,” he said.