BREAKING: Condo hi-rise collapses in Miami, "potential for devastating loss of human life"; UPDATE: Video of collapse added

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

“It’s rubble,” NBC News reporter Sam Brock described the quadrant of the building in a Miami suburb that collapsed in the early-morning hours. Surfside mayor Charles Burkett told NBC later that the 12-story building “pancaked” as it went down. No one’s sure how many people were in the units that got destroyed, but everyone’s sure the number is higher than the one confirmed death so far:

A massive search and rescue effort was underway Thursday outside Miami after a 12-story, oceanside condo building partially collapsed into a mammoth pile of rubble leaving at least one person dead, authorities said.

Miami-Dade Rescue Fire said on Twitter that more than 80 technical and rescue teams were on the scene in Surfside, a few miles north of Miami Beach. Fire fighters picked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.

Burkett said 10 people were medically treated at the scene. Two people were sent to the hospital, where one later died, he said. Search efforts in the collapsed section of the building were continuing but the way the building fell means those efforts may not be successful in recovering many people, Burkett added.

“The problem is the building has literally pancaked,” he said.

Authorities say they don’t know how many people were in the building when it collapsed, nor how many of them were able to flee the disaster. The building is part of Champlain Towers South, built in 1981 and containing more than 100 apartments, according to the Miami Herald.

There was one brief piece of good news as firefighters rescued a boy from the rubble (via Twitchy):

How could this have happened to a modern hi-rise condo building in the US? Burkett isn’t sure either, but he did note that roof work was being done earlier. NBC’s Brock also mentioned in the video report above that the city had just begun an inspection process required of buildings that hit 40 years of age. Burkett is also sure that the death toll will rise considerably:

When asked if all units in the building were occupied, the mayor confirmed the building “was not lowly occupied.”

“I think there were quite a few people in there,” he said.

As to the cause of the collapse, the mayor noted there was roof work going on but did not think that was related to the collapse.

“This is a catastrophic failure of that building,” Burkett said. “It looks like a bomb went off but we are pretty sure a bomb didn’t go off.”

ABC got some aerial video of the building, which shows the scope of the collapse. It appears that the entire quadrant sheared off:

One has to wonder how safe the rest of the building is now. I’m certain that they will have already evacuated it as a precaution by now. It might be the last time any of the residents see the inside of the building, given this catastrophic collapse — and maybe the last time any of them want to see the inside of this building.

The rescue mission will continue for days, and hopefully the searchers will find more survivors. The news will be grim indeed otherwise, given the scale of this collapse. We will update this post as developments warrant, and/or follow up with other posts as needed. Keep these people in your prayers.

Update: Not much new yet, but CBS News interviewed former Miami-Dade fire chief Dave Downey to get some background on how the search and rescue will operate. Just like at 9/11’s Ground Zero, this is going to be dangerous for first responders and may take days:

“No hits from the dogs” means no initial signs of life, but Downey cautions against reading too much into that at first. They need to clear some debris before the dogs can really start spotting survivors.

Update: WSVN obtained video-surveillance footage showing the collapse, and it’s massive:

It doesn’t appear to show any initiating event, but it’s from a distance.

Update: Fifty-five units collapsed, it turns out, and only 35 people got rescued so far:

That leaves a lot of potential victims left to find.