One person has been pronounced dead after a 12-story, 136-unit condominium in Surfside, Fla., in a predominately Jewish area near a large synagogue, partially collapsed at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. As many as 100 others are missing and may be trapped in the rubble left by the fall of the 12-story, 136-unit oceanfront tower.

Among those rescued were building resident Barry Cohen and his wife.

Wearing a kipah and a Jewish Federation of Greater Miami T-shirt, he was interviewed on Thursday morning by CNN and other media. Cohen said he had been in a deep sleep when he heard “a crashing noise that kept going and going for 30 seconds.”

Opening the door to the hallway, “there was nothing there,” he told CNN. “It was just a pile of dust and rubble and paint falling from the ceilings. … When we were waiting for the firetruck to approach the building, the building was still shaking. It just seemed like it was very unsteady. And I just, you know, knowing how what it looked like outside my door, I thought that any minute, we could be that same pile of rubble.”

According to Assistant Chief Raide Jadallah of the Miami-Dade Fire rescue, 35 people were rescued from the building and two were pulled from the rubble of the Champlain Towers building, which was built in 1981. Ten people have been assessed and treated, and two were transported to the hospital. Jadallah said the northeast corridor of the building collapse affecting 55 units.

United Hatzalah of South Florida at the scene of the partial collapse of a 12-story, 136-unit condominium in Surfside, Fla., on June 24, 2021. Source: Screenshot.

Among the first responders on the scene were 20 members of Hatzalah of South Florida, a volunteer medical service made up primarily of Orthodox Jews.

“Hatzalah is working closely with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and other agencies. Our role is to give medical attention to patients and deal with the families,” Joseph Dahan, a Hatzalah director who has been at the scene since shortly after the collapse happened, told JNS.

He said the Hatzalah dispatch center received a number of calls reporting the collapse of the building a few blocks away from The Shul in Bal Harbour, Fla., a large Chabad synagogue that draws worshippers and visitors from throughout Southeast Florida.

Gabriel Groisman, the mayor of Bal Harbour, which is adjacent to Surfside, tweeted: “Absolutely devastating scene in our neighboring city, Surfside. About half of Champlain South collapsed at around 2 am. Building was mostly occupied. I am replete with shock and sadness, am praying for the residents and their families, and am thankful for our first responders.”

He also noted that he used to live in that very building as a child.


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